May The Field Day Be With You: A Step By Step Guide To Outdoor Star Wars Fun

Today I spent the day outside with kids I love doing what I love — PLAYING! It’s a treat to see 5th graders get to step out of the classroom and testing zone and enjoy their fleeting days of childhood. My daughter’s school simply rocks field day. Headed by her PE teacher, Mrs. April Cecil, and fueled by staff, PTA, and plentiful parent volunteers, they really surpass the norm for end of year fun. As a physical therapist, and play loving, outdoor activity advocate I appreciate the nice balance she strikes between choosing games that challenge them physically, are fun, rely on teamwork, and most importantly get them very wet. This is not your grandma’s day of potato sack races and tug of war. Because they do such a nice job – we feel the need to share.  Our hope is that other play loving, fun seeking schools will use this post as a resource to make end of year parties or celebrations simple and fun.

This year’s theme was Star Wars. Each class was a “team” and rotated through stations where they stayed and played for about 10 minutes. Breaks for water were built in. Volunteers ran each station and the PE teacher and PTA officers organized the stations, supplies, and volunteers.

Here are the stations they included:

  1. C3POP: Students will line up behind their cones in a single file line. On “Go” the first student runs down to the chair and grabs a balloon out of the bag. The student must pop the water balloon by sitting on it on the chair. After the balloon is busted, the student returns to his/her line and tag the next person in line. Activity is over when all balloons have been popped.
  2. R2D2 & C3PO Races: Students will get on a yellow (C3PO) or blue (R2D2) scooter and scoot to the cone and around it and then give to the next student in line. The first team who completes the relay race wins.
  3. EMPIRE STRIKES BACK: Students will set up to play “Duck, Duck, Goose.” Instead of tagging people and saying “Duck” the students will hold a water balloon and say “Empire” as they pass each student. When they get to the student where they would normally say “Goose,” they will pop the water balloon over their head and run as that student chases them.
  4. END OF DARTH VADER: Students from each group will line up behind their color cone. On “Go” the first student in each line will run to the large “Kerplunk” and pull out a stick. If they successfully pull the stick without allowing any balls to drop then they turn around and tag the next person in line. If all the balls fall, that team loses and the game is set back up again.
  5. BATTLE OF ENDOR: 1 student from each group will gather under one of the squares and play a game of 4 square – but in the air! Students will volley the ball back and forth and if the ball lands inside their square their team gets a point. After each point, a new student from each team will take a turn in the square. The team with the lowest score wins. (**Set made with PVP pipe).
  6. ATTACK OF THE CLONES: Students will line up behind their cone within 2 feet of the next person on their team. Each student will sit with a bowl on their head. On “Go” the first student will fill their bowl with water from the nearby bin. The student will then pour the water into the next person’s bowl while the bowl is on their head. That student then stands and pours the water into the bowl on the head of the next student. This continues down the line. The last student will pour the water into the team’s bucket. The team with the most water at the end wins.
  7. CANTINAS: Water break station!
  8. DESTROY THE DEATH STAR:  Each student will have a squirt gun and will squirt the beach ball until it moves to the cone. When the gun is empty, they return it to the next teammate who refills and takes a turn. The game is over when the first team gets the ball to the cone. 
  9. REVENGE OF THE SITH: Students line up behind their color cone. On “Go” the first person in line for each team will grab the sponge of their team’s color from the bucket and squeeze the sponge. They will then take the sponge and toss it back to the next person in line.  That person will then dip the sponge in the water and toss it back. The team that can do this without dropping it the least amount of times, wins. 
  10. LIGHT SABER BATTLE: Students will take turns “battling” each other with pool noodles. If someone gets hit, you are out. The noodle must hit students on the legs ONLY.
  11. DON’T DROP THE STORM TROOPER: The students will line up behind their color cone. On “Go” the first student in line will put their stormtroopers on their spoon and walk/run/jog to the cone and go around it. The student then passes the stormtrooper to the next person in line.  The team who completes the relay first wins.  If the Stormtrooper falls to the ground, students must scoop it up with their hands.  The students may not use their hands to keep the Stormtrooper on the spoon.  
  12. FREE HAN SOLO: Each group will be given a block of ice with Han Solo in the middle.  Each group must figure out how to melt the ice to get Han Solo out.  The first team that does, wins.
  13. JEDI TRAINING: The students will line up behind their color cone. On “Go” the first student in line will grab a cup from the bucket of water and go to the jump rope and jump 5 times. They will then run to the cone, do 5 jumping jacks, go through the hoop, jump in and out of the hoop, and then run back to the start to tag the next person in line. The first team to complete the relay race wins.
  14. CATCH YODA YOU MUST: Students will line up behind their color cone. The first person in line will grab the basket and run down to the other cone. The next student in line will grab a water balloon from a bucket and toss it to their teammate. The person with the basket will attempt to catch the water balloon in the basket while holding it on top of their head. If the balloon doesn’t bust, they must place it inside the bucket.  They will then switch and the person with the balloon will hold the basket while the other gets back in line. The team with the most balloons in the basket at the end wins.
  15. LEIA’S BLASTER: Break for drinks and popsicles!

Enjoy! Get outside and may the FIELD DAY be with you!

OUR GIFT to #ASHA15 Customers!

We are packing our bags and headed to DENVER!  This year’s National ASHA Conference is the biggest conference we have attended and we are thrilled and honored to be among 12,000 Speech Therapists as speakers and as vendors! We hope if you are attending, you will come see us at BOOTH #358 where we will be sharing all we have to offer, including:

1-2-3 Just Play With Me (print and digital) – Print copy at a discounted conference rate!

PLAY BUILDS BRAINS coffee mugs

Customized Developmental Checklists

To celebrate this MILESTONE event for our company, we are sharing our joy in several ways, including:

A FREE TOY OF THE DAY TREAT to use in your work as an SLP (while supplies last!)

An INCREDIBLE daily and grand prize drawing for therapists purchasing 1-2-3 Just Play With Me — you could go home with an inspiring and beautiful bracelet, new stylish totes for your therapy gear, and resources (books, toys, games – including resources from Scanlon Speech Therapy) to fill those totes, PLUS a KINDLE FIRE with the ebook version of 1-2-3 Just Play With Me on it!

See flyer below for pictures of all these great goodies!

ADDITIONALLY – if you purchase 1-2-3 Just Play With Me at ASHA ’15 (which will will ship for FREE to your home or office  – no need  to fill your carry on with our beautiful box!), you will receive a FREE set of useful handouts to use with parents and teachers/staff.  We’ve created detailed handout like the one below on our TOP 10 TOPICS (aka the things we repeat OVER and OVER as therapists!) So let us help you reinforce your message with having your own copies of these on your computer to reuse as many times as you like!

Topics incude:

  1. BYE BYE BINKIE (Risks of prolonged sucking and strategies for weaning)
  2. READ ALL ABOUT IT (Benefits and tips for daily literacy)
  3. TUMMY TIME TIPS (Benefits & tips for tummy time)
  4. ALL ABOUT PLAY (Information for parents of staying focused on play based activities)
  5. THE WONDERS OF BLOCK PLAY (A beautiful picture graphic on the many uses of blocks)
  6. IS TV SAFE FOR BABY? (Guidelines and education on screens and the young child)
  7. WHAT DOES READY FOR KINDERGARTEN MEAN ANYWAY? (Education & tips on pre-K play based readiness)
  8. PICTURE THIS (Education & tips for picture based communication) 
  9. LEARNING TO SPEAK (Articulation Development)
  10. TOY TIPS (Support on choosing toys with a developmental purpose and setting up a play space). 

 

We are proud to be with you at ASHA ’15 as your #1 PLAY advocates! So come have fun with us. BOOTH #358 is the place to be for FUN, useful education, & practical resources! Follow the butterfly & come PLAY with us in Denver!

Reteaching my brain and listening to my body so I can help my patients do the same: A review of TMR TOTS

“Educating yourself does not mean you were stupid in the first place; it means you were intelligent enough to known there is plenty left  to learn.” -Melanie Joy

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This weekend I spent about 18 hours on the floor in yoga clothes, on yoga mats, holding and twisting baby dolls with black electrical tape on them, and rolling, rubbing, and positioning other people (some I know, some I didn’t before Saturday). PT’s are weirdly awesome. We learn by doing. By seeing. Be feeling. By proving things to be correct…to be good enough to be worth our time, but more importantly to be worthy of making a difference for our patients.

I have be a long time internet stalker of the TMR Method – more specifically – TMR TOTS (the version for baby lovers like me!). It’s been a course that I have wanted to take for a long time, after hearing rave reviews from other therapists, and after hearing MANY refer to methods taught in this course with a sense of common vocabulary. As a PT I felt I was missing out on the secret and I wanted to see for myself.

A great slide with a great reminder!

A great slide with a great reminder!

Without getting into tremendous detail, these methods beautifully weave neurological principals long proven by science to be true, reinforcing what therapists have seen themselves to be successfully with a concept foreign and new to some (like me): making improvements in function, flexibility, posture, and showing increased range of motion without “stretching.” My brain couldn’t process this at first.

 No pain?

No “work?”

No “hold it 5, 10, 30 seconds?”

No “feel the burn?” 

I mean, they don’t call us PT’s (aka Physical Terrorists) for nothing? I was skeptical, then inquisitive, then curious (in between the 1st and 2nd days of the course, my first and favorite lab partner (my college roomie who came to take the course with me) and I assessed my children, husband, and mother in law – with a burning sense of expectation that it wouldn’t work with at least ONE of them.

Practicng at home. Sorry for the PJs - long day!

Practicng at home. Sorry for the PJs – long day!

They all improved. Every one. My mother in law could come to standing with ease and less pain. My husband and children all have increased hip motions where tight hamstrings have long limited them in various ways. So then I started questioning (long term carry over? children with neurologic tone?). And then I got to see before my own eyes and feel with my own hands one of my current patients be treated by Susan Blum – the gentle, patient, and wise PT – who teaches this career changing course. And I submitted. As I did I actually felt guilty that I didn’t have this knowledge for the past 14 years. This old dog learned a new trick and I can’t wait to practice what I learned this week and see what the results are on my patients!

If you are a therapist, I urge you to check it out. The differences we could all collectively make with this knowledge is pretty mind blowing. I’m eager to learn more and to see what we saw and felt replicated and proven in published studies.

If you are a parent with a child with challenges caused by movement – I urge you to seek out a therapist with the training. I wish every child I ever treated had the opportunity to give it a try.

A main component of TMR is to “go to the easy side,”  and “watch, listen, and feel what the body wants to do.” I sat and processed this a bit…and at a deeper level. When we feed our nervous systems with sensory input that our bodies need, we regulate, and function optionally. When we allow movement in the ways I learned about this weekend, our bodies start to correct themselves.  How many times in my life have I pushed my mind, body, and heart out of what it wanted to do? How about you?

Over worked?

Over scheduled?

Under-exercised?

Over-exercised?

Poor nutrition? and hydration?

Wrong choices for wrong motives?

Neglecting my people for reasons that don’t matter?

Judging myself by unfair standards?

My husband claims I have an “inner hippie,” and maybe he’s right (and maybe it’s laughable – go ahead) but I do think people and experiences come to you or are sent to you as you need them. Tomorrow my daughters return to school and as I’ve shared before, a new school year or more like New Year’s Day for me than the holiday. I love fresh starts and new chances for healthy starts….for chances to listen to what your body, mind, and soul are telling you.

As they go off to school, I will shift into working more and having more time during the day to pour into my “other kids.” Thanks to TMR, I have an incredible new skill set to practice and learn with. I also have a reminder to “go to my easy side” as I tackle the mom role of hectic schedules, a much quicker pace, and on the never ending quest for “balance” (in parenthesis because I don’t think it exists).

I am thankful that my body keeps telling me I have so much left to learn! What is yours telling you?

One of my favorite slides from the course.

One of my favorite slides from the course.

 

The POWER of LANGUAGE in WORDLESS PICTURE BOOKS

If you are a follower of our blog you well know by now that I am a children’s book nerd.  I love all kids’ books…even love those without words.  How can that be, you may ask, I am a speech-language pathologist, after all?!  Words are my life!!  Well, it can be because WORDLESS PICTURE BOOKS entice more spontaneous language in kids and encourage language development in ways that pre-written stories that are simply read to them can’t.

So what language learning advantages lie between the pages of wordless picture books?

1.  Spontaneous language – wordless picture books allow kids to tell their own story about the pictures they see.  While doing this they are practicing sentence formulation, sequencing and naturally, storytelling skills!

2.  No reading level required – Wordless picture books are “readable” for all kids no matter what their reading level.

3.  Attention to detail – Because there is no predetermined story line, kids are more likely to notice details in the pictures to add interest to their story.

4.  Interpreting and inferring – Again, without words to tell them how characters are feeling, wordless picture books require kids to infer details from the pictures like characters’ emotions.

5.  Infinite options – Wordless picture books can be a new book with a new story each time a child picks it up.  This encourages creativity, imagination and flexible thinking.

Here are a few of my favorite wordless picture books.  Check them out and open up a world of language and storytelling possibilities for your kids!

What does READY for Kindergarten really mean?

Yesterday I volunteered at Kindergarten Registration at my daughter’s elementary school.

As I sat there watching the children march from station to station (either proudly or with nudging) with their parents behind them, I had a rush of mixed emotions. I was excited for the journey they are all ready to start at such an incredible place to learn. I couldn’t help myself from sharing, “Do you know you are going to come to the BEST SCHOOL EVER!? Waves of nostalgia passed over me as I remember exactly what my oldest wore to her Kindergarten Registration and how she went from station to station collecting documents and shaking hands like a 5 year old executive. Small pains of sadness and emotional gratefulness were in the mix too – my youngest will leave that incredible nest in a few months. Where has the time gone? I am going to have a child in middle school next year. Virtual hugs accepted.

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A child’s (and a parent’s) first step into an elementary school is a big deal. I know it and I felt it for those parents yesterday. That first impression plays a large role in a parent’s impression and expectations for their child’s school experience. And we all know that our expectations as parents play a large role in our child’s expectations for themselves.

I have to say that our elementary school does a really great job of this. Friendly smiles. Calm voices. Squatting down to greet kids eye to eye. Fun and festive decorations. These professionals got it going on! But this does not surprise me. They do an incredible job day in and day out so it is natural to share their gifts with families on their first special day.

As a pediatric Physical Therapist, I have a genuine interest in development, and through our work with Milestones & Miracles, I’ve become specifically interested and fascinated with the benefits of developmentally appropriate learning through play or hands on/multi-sensory activities with a purpose.  Lacy & I are so passionate about this that we developed a lecture to support schools with the good work they are already doing, with ideas to feed a student’s nervous system with the movement and activities they need to learn.

At the table next to me, was our school’s reading specialist. She is young, fun, and good at what she does. The little girls idolize her and the boys have big time crushes on her. She’s an elementary rock star. She was handing out a booklet yesterday to help parents prepare their children for Kindergarten. It quickly caught my eye because I remembered it. And when I remembered it, I also remembered my feelings absolute panic….WHAAAT? She has to do this BEFORE KINDERGARTEN? She’s not ready? Maybe I should wait a year? Will she ever succeed?

photo 3

 

When it was our turn to step into that school, I’ll admit this list clearly stressed me out. The self imposed challenge of teaching my child all of this information by September overwhelmed me and to be honest I didn’t want to spend our last summer before school stated drilling her to learn to write her name. To my knowledge she wasn’t doing most of these things at 4. She had gone to a play based preschool and we didn’t do worksheets or flashcards at home. (Side note: After she started school a few months later, her new teacher proudly shared she actually DID know/could do these things….shocking my husband and I…and starting the precious trend she has for refusing to learn most things we try to overtly teach her).

In solidarity with those parents coming to collect the list and learning sheets, I had a wonderful conversation with the reading teacher. It went a lot like many of the valued conversations I’ve had with my children’s teachers over the years…teachers know concepts they must share are often presented too early or in a format they don’t feel confident with…but the national trend for education and policy making is what it is. I shared that brain research tells us that children’s brains are often not ready/wired to read until closer to 7 years of age. She confirmed that she sees this often with students she work with. I shared as a parent of a first time student, that list made me nervous.  We both agreed our shared thoughts that expecting them to do things their brain isn’t ready for isn’t exactly fair (please note I am in no way saying a Kindergarten student should not learn, be challenged, be introduced to literature concepts etc. Just that there is a need to recognize ALL kids are biologically ready for site words the instant they turn 5).

The packet also included some great and relevant follow up information that expanded on the list..including helpful and reassuring information that these things did not have to be mastered by the first day of school (I don’t remember this part of the list when I received it?! So glad it was added).

photo 1

 

But in addition to those tips, I think it’s important to share with parents that PLAY BASED learning is still developmentally appropriate for 4 & 5 year olds….and beyond that, it is this type of learning that makes those essential concepts, imperative building blocks for advanced learned, concrete and real and strong. Without fully understanding these early learning concepts, our children don’t have a sturdy foundation. And yes some students prefer pencil and paper (even at 4 years old), but we know that the more senses (including movement) we involve with learning, the more our children will learn.

Experiencing is learning.

Purposeful Play IS learning.

Just because he/she doesn’t come home with a worksheet doesn’t mean learning didn’t occur.

Because we are so passionate about this for children and their parents, and because we have been so fortunate to have a unique and strong relationship in partnering with my daughter’s elementary school, I felt comfortable creating a short resource that could be shared to back up these principles.

And because I’m sharing it with that rock star teacher today, I thought why not share with you?

If you are a teacher, parent, therapist or just anyone interested in the topic feel free to share this document with anyone who might benefit. You have our permission to print it. You can find it by clicking the PDF link at the end of this essay. We only ask that you respect our time in creating it and cite us as the source. It is short and sweet but provides practical suggestions for developmentally play based in context learning for those getting ready for Kindergarten.

We can all work together to make change by advocating for developmentally appropriate learning and advocating for play as an essential need for all children.

Is he/she ready for Kindergarten is a question we will all ask ourselves as parents. We believe that defining what “ready” really means makes it a much easier question to answer. We hope this list helps you do just that.

Kindergaten Here I Come – Ideas To Learn PDF

 

Have an infant or toddler? Want to support them with purposeful play – check out 1-2-3 Just Play With Me! 

The Secret of “The Hot Pink Tape”

This post was originally written for Child Guide Magazine.  Check out the many resources Child Guide offers as well as this article and others HERE.

If you are a runner, or have watched a race or even perhaps a professional sporting event lately, you may find yourself asking, “What is that bright colored tape people are wearing? And why is it cut in crazy patterns?” That trendy tape, often seen in bright pink or blue or sometimes black, is called Kinesiotape and it isn’t exactly new, even though it may have gained popularity in recent years in the US. But did you know that Kinesiotape is not just for athletes? This versatile tape is actually a very effective tool for children with motor challenges as well!

 

Kinesiotape is a progression of Kinesio Tex, which was invented by Dr. Kenzo Kase in Japan in the 1970’s. Dr. Kase was searching for an alternative tape to traditional athletic tape. He noticed that traditional tape often restricted movement, did nothing to aid healing, and could potentially cause additional injuries. Out of his hard work, Kinesiotape was born. What makes it different? Kinesiotape is elastic, latex free, cotton based tape that can stretch up to 30-40% of its original size. These properties allow it to be more versatile than traditional tape. In additional to allowing full range of motion and being very comfortable on the skin, the elasticity of the tape allows it to perform many functions. Kinesiotape is meant to be placed very strategically depending on the reason why someone is wearing it. Depending on placement it can increase healing, decrease inflammation and swelling, and support weak muscle by encouraging activation, or increase function lost by spastic muscle by encouraging a decrease in muscle tone. In addition posture can be improved with use.

kinesiotape-baby-buikjes

Sounds pretty incredible, right? Here’s how it works. Our muscles are each individually covered in a think filmy layer called fascia. Between the skin and this fascia are layers of connective tissue. When Kinesiotape is applied strategically to the skin, it tugs on the skin, which pulls on the connective tissue, which pulls on the fascia, which tugs on the muscle. The result is either an increased “fascial envelope,” allowing for 1) increased removal of toxins (lactic acid and waste) and increased space to allow fresh blood to restore tissue or aid in healing or 2) Encouragement of activation of a specific muscle for a specific purpose., improving posture or strength through increased use.   When used this way, the tape is like a constant tapping on weak muscles saying, “Use Me!”

kinesio-tape-diagram

This can potentially best be illustrated by looking at something concrete like a bruise.

In the images below, Kinesiotape has been used to increase the space between the fascia and the skin and allow quicker healing in the places where the tape was placed.

How is this used with children or anyone with motor challenges? In many ways! Children with atypical muscle tone (either hypotonia (low tone), hypertonia (high tone) or any sort of weakness may benefit from Kinesotape. When the tape is applied strategically over the muscles that need assistance or strengthening, the result is a slight tug that encourages the child to use their body in a specific way. When used this way, Kinesiotape can be used as a bridge to encourage strengthening or function through active participation. The child wears the tape, the tape encourages the child to move their body in a way that strengthens, stretches, or improves function, and eventually the child may get strong or functional enough to not need the tape. An example would be using the tape on the abdominal or back muscles in a child with Downs Syndrome who has trouble sitting alone or on the hand of a child with Cerebral Palsy who has a hard time opening the hand to grab for things.

Owen Ruffner is a 2 year-old child has benefitted from Kinesiotape in large ways. Owen has Mitocondrial Disease and as a result has weakness and low muscle tone, which challenge him when moving and attempting to control his body. Owen is learning to walk with a gait trainer and without tape, tends to drift to his left weaker side. When Kinesiotape is placed on the left leg, encouraging full activation of his muscles, he able to walk in a straight path. These results were immediately noticed after 1 application by his Physical Therapist. His mother Kasey McDaniel has been thrilled with the progress. She shares, “Kinesiotape has helped Owen by giving him a chance to use his muscles on his weaker side. I have noticed a huge difference with daily function and with helping him as he learns to walk.”

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The possibilities are quite endless with Kinesiotape as it is relatively low cost, is easily tolerated on the skin, is waterproof, and usually lasts 3-5 days per application. It is very important that anyone using the tape is initially taped by someone with strong knowledge of anatomy, such as a licensed physical therapist, and by someone who has had training on the Kinesiotape method.  Once a few applications are applied, tweaked as needed, and monitored, a successful method can be taught to a willing parent, who could continue the taping at home, with the help of a physical therapist.
It is true that Lance Armstrong was one of the first to expose Kinesiotape to the United States, swearing by the pink tape specifically for his knee injury, but your child may benefit as well. If you haven’t tried it yet, the risks and cost are low, but the benefit is often quite high. Ask your pediatric PT about Kinesiotape at your next visit.

 

For more information about Kinesiotape and the Kinesiotaping method, visit: http://www.kinesiotaping.com/ and http://www.kinesiologytapeinfo.com/pediatric-kinesiology-taping/

 

What I learned from a real life superhero without a cape

A few weeks ago, amongst the CRAZY of end of school year activities, we traveled to our state’s capital Charleston, WV.  My youngest daughter won our county’s Young Writer’s Contest for her age and with that came an invitation to spend the day on the University of Charleston’s campus with published authors in writing workshops. Charleston is a 5 hour drive from our home and the event was on a Friday, but there was no way she was missing this one. My mom is an English teacher and literary nut and so for the two of them this was the Superbowl.  So my husband and I and both our mothers (super grandmas) escorted her to the event. Here’s a few pictures from the day.

At the awards ceremony at the end of the day, the winners from each division were chosen to read their entries from the stage into the microphone. As the host of the event gave us an overview of what we were about to hear, my ears (and heart) perked up when he said that the 3-4 grade winner had Autism and would share his entry that gave us a view of what living with Autism is like. My protective therapist nature kicked in and I immediately was concerned for the boy I did not know. Inside my head I thought,

“This room is filled with hundreds of people.”

“They want him to speak in a microphone?”

“There’s an echo in here and loud clapping, will that overwhelm him?”

As Sawyer Hinton from Mingo County approached the microphone, my worries all melted away. This was a composed, bright, confident boy. His thick Appalachian accent required me to intently focus to clearly hear each word, but his message was as clear as could be.  His goal was to share what he knows about Autism as an advocate not just for himself, but for others. He doesn’t consider himself to have a disability, but a superpower. As he finished, the whole auditorium stood and clapped for several minutes. I couldn’t stop the tears just like those around me – men, women, kids – all blubbering. It could have been a scene from a movie.  I was as proud of this kid as I have ever been for my own and I didn’t know him!

My daughter was blessed to be given the opportunity to spend the day with many inspiring teachers and authors, but we were all blessed to hear Sawyer Hinton, who in my opinion had the best sense of himself and the world around him  than any other elementary kid I have ever seen. I only wish I had had a video to show you the incredible moments.

Autism now affects 1 in 68 children in the US. You likely have a relative or a friend with Autism or someone you know has a child with Autism. Sawyer’s goal was to use his day to spread awareness. We’d like to use our blog to help him as he helps others. This boy will do big things in the world. Enjoy! (and please share!) And thank you Sawyer!

Superhero Without a Cape

by Sawyer Hinton

Grades 3-4 winner, Lenore PreK-8, Mingo County

Did you know that not all superheroes wear a cape? I have a superpower that makes me very special. I am completely different from every other 8-year-old that I know. The thing that I call my super power is what most people call Autism. I know that it is normally seen as a disability. But I look at it in a different light. I would much rather call it a special ability. Autism allows me to process everything in the world around me differently than the average child. My family has helped me cope with my diagnosis. So hopefully after reading my story, you will discover that there are superheroes all around you. They just don’t wear capes.

I have been called some really ugly names for being different. But being peculiar is just who I am. I want to explain how you could always turn a disability into a superpower by just looking at things in a different way. Take my obsessiveness of order routine for example. Most people consider that a disability. I, on the other hand, just think that I am more organized than everyone else. Now doesn’t that sound more positive by just changing the words? I prefer to be alone most of the time. But I really have more time to think, read and dream. I come around people in my own time and at my own pace. Is that not how most people get to know one another? I just take a little longer. My brain is larger than normal. Seems to me that is a positive trait. I have room to learn more. One of the stigmas placed on people like me is that we are mentally retarded. That could not be farther from the truth. I am a genius when it comes to certain things. Putting what I know on the outside is what I struggle with. However, the ability to retain information by just hearing or reading it once is definitely a perk. So, has it become more apparent that I am super special? I cannot bear the thought of certain textures, smells, tastes and things that have to do with sensory perception. Guess I am just set in my ways. But isn’t every single person that way? I am a little extreme but still not disabled.

I have not mentioned all the quirky things that I do. But what superhero reveals all his secrets? I just hope that I can make a difference to someone else like me. I urge you to take the time to look at the things that make you different and embrace them. Never accept something as a disability, look at it as a special superpower that makes you unique! Hopefully now you can see the superheroes living all around you.

– See more at: http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140510/GZ05/140519982/1101#sthash.4ocuBaXx.XD82HGUW.dpuf

Navigating Special Education in the School Setting: What Parents Need To Know

Child Guide Magazine is a great source for information and to find fun activities! Milestones & Miracles is proud to team with this great FREE publication by writing a column geared toward the Special Needs/Differently Abled Population.  The article below is our contribution to the FALL 2013 Issue which is filled with great “Back To School” Information. Grab yours today or view online at: http://issuu.com/childguidemagazine/docs/septoct2013cgweb

 

Are you a visual learner or auditory learner? Do you learn best by actually doing? Do you need a quiet room to retain what you are reading? Each one of us learns in unique ways. Many good teachers recognize learning styles, strengths, & challenges and accommodate the children within their classrooms. But what happens when simple modifications aren’t enough? Some children need additional supports and services to make the educational experience a positive one. And while learning about and implementing those services can seem very intimidating for parents, the process does not have to be.

Students 3 years of age and older that need supports and services in the public school setting receive them under Part B of the Individual’s With Disabilities Act (IDEA). This is a Federal Law that ensures special education services. If you are having concerns that typical classroom strategies are not meeting your child’s needs, speak to his/her teacher early. Sometimes, simple changes to a daily routine (such as changing seat location or providing a check list to stay on task) can make a huge difference.

If simple changes are not adequate, you or your child’s teacher may request testing to further identify strengths and challenges. The results of testing are reviewed at an eligibility meeting, usually held at the school, with parents, teachers, and other professionals (therapists, coordinators etc.) in attendance. If your child is found eligible for special education services, you can consent to move forward with an Individualized Education Plan or IEP. Parents, teachers, and others who have knowledge of your child’s specific needs such as therapists, nurses, psychologists and other professionals help create the IEP. You can invite others who know your child well and might help with the process. An IEP is a legally binding document that includes specific goals for your child, services and frequency of those services to support goals, & any additional materials needed to support your child (examples include special classroom materials, customized seating, or communication devices).

The IEP serves as the “map” to guide your child through the educational journey. It must be reviewed yearly, but can be reviewed more frequently per your request as your child changes, progresses, or new challenges arise. It is important that parents understand IDEA and their child’s rights under it. Seek out the assistance of an IEP advocate (counties hire these individuals) and ask to schedule a meeting to learn more and review policies that protect your rights. Each state develops a policy that outlines procedures for defining child find (how the state finds children that need to be tested), eligibility, and services as well as outlining parents’ rights and responsibilities. Refer to your own state’s Department of Education for more information on your specific policy or for support on learning more about individuals and organizations that serve to support parents through special education.

It is also important to understand that the IEP serves to meet your child’s EDUCATIONAL needs vs. MEDICAL needs. For example, if a child with Cerebral Palsy has tight hamstrings and an atypical walking pattern but can get around the classroom efficiently and safely, he/she would benefit from physical therapy, but would be served in a therapy clinic vs. a school setting in most cases.

Someone who knows both sides of the special education world in the public school arena is Tracey Parks. Parks is a 5th grade teacher at Tomahawk Intermediate School in Hedgesville, WV. While she has taught students of all learning styles and abilities for 18 years, she has first hand experience being a parent navigating the IEP process with her 9 year-old daughter Jordyn. She offers these wonderful tips to parents:

• COMMUNICATION IS KEY: Communication early and often. Request a meeting with all teachers who will be interacting with your child very early in the year (before the first conference) to share what works best for your child. Use a simple communication journal (could even be on a number system, such as 1= good day). Teachers have little time to write daily lengthy notes, but sharing simple information daily can be helpful to both parent and teacher. Parents might also consider sharing important things daily such as deviations to sleep routines, digestive issues, changes at home, or illnesses as they might impact the child’s day.

YOUR CHILD NEEDS YOU TO SHOW UP: IEP meetings are your chance to learn about your child from the people who spend hours with him/her! Make arrangements if possible to be there so that you can listen and learn, share your opinion and ideas, and brainstorm as part of the team. Your participation shows your child’s team that you are sincere about working with them for the benefit of your child. If you can’t attend in person, request a phone conference.

• ASK QUESTIONS/MAKE SUGGESTIONS: Don’t be afraid to ask questions regarding your child’s education. A good teacher should be willing to take the time to explain and answer. An example is asking for a second set of books so you can help your child at home. If you know of something that benefits your child at home or in other settings, such as during private therapies, don’t hesitate to share with your child’s team.

• BE PATIENT & POSITIVE: Remember that teachers are responsible for many children besides yours. While your concern or question may be incredibly important to you, try to allow reasonable time for the teacher to respond. Go into meetings or conversations with a positive attitude. Your disposition can be contagious and can make these exchanges more productive and pleasant for both you and the teacher.

It is important for the success of each child that parents and professionals work together on common goals. Successful IEP’s do just that. While the process might seem daunting at first, it is important to remember that there are many people who care about your child and want to support you. Seek out their experience and help, lean on parents with similar experience, and keep yourself focused on your priority – your child being learning successfully!