Please Mommy Don’t Go!

You will never feel more loved then when your child cries for the first time at the sight of you leaving.  In their eyes, at this stage of their development, YOU are their greatest love.  And because of their uncertainty that you will return, they are heartbroken to see you walk away.  The first time it happens is heart wrenching.  Some parents aren’t able to leave when they hear their baby calling out for them.  Your child’s cries affirm their love for you, and this  is one of the first ways they expresses it.
Separation anxiety begins around the age of 10 months and peaks by 18 months.  It usually subsides between 2 1/2 to 3 years of age.  It is a natural stage of development in your child’s social-emotional skills.  Your leaving and returning helps your child to learn object permanence;  even when you aren’t with them you are somewhere else.  Another reason why separation anxiety occurs is because at this young age your child has no concept of time.  Whether it be one minute or 8 hours, your child just knows that you are gone and they want you back!  With practice, your child will eventually learn that you will return and their anxiety will resolve.


Here are some tips to help ease the transition of when you have to leave your child’s side:


-Make your goodbye quick and try distracting your child with a toy or object of interest.
-Verbally reassure them that you will be back.  Provide them with a picture of you to hold while you are away.
-Creating a picture schedule may be helpful for older children.  The schedule will help them to understand what  happens next in their day and reassure them that you are returning.
-Usually the child stops crying within minutes of your departure.  Give your babysitter/family member a call to make sure that your child has calmed down, then let go of the guilt!!


Your reward for the pain of leaving them is seeing their smiling face when you return.  Just as their cries made you feel loved when you left them, their excited, smiling face when you return…well there is nothing like it!  It reminds you that THEY are your greatest love too!

Making SENSE of SENSORY INTEGRATION= something we all need to undertstand

As I’ve mentioned before, we want our blog to meet many goals but one is to educate.  A topic we get frequent questions about involves the word “sensory.” I guarantee you have or know of a child with “sensory needs,” so I thought I’d use this entry to provide a GENERAL understanding on this topic.  Please keep in mind that this is just that, general. This topic is very detailed and you could research and read for months and go to uncountable conferences on this subject, so this entry is not meant for those who have a good grasp on sensory needs and want detailed information.  

Who has “sensory issues?” It is true that children on the Autistic Spectrum have sensory integration issues, however people who are not on the spectrum also can have issues in this area.  In fact, we all have “sensory needs,” what makes them concerning is if they interrupt our daily function.
When you hear the word sensory you think back to 1st grade science, right? Taste, touch, smell, sight, sound! While these are certainly senses and important ones at that, our nervous systems also process other senses such as deep pressure, light touch, vestibular movement (like swinging or spinning), and gravitational position/proprioception (where your body is in space) to name a few. Our nervous systems were made to take in all these senses, process them, and organize our bodies in response to them in order to function.  For example, if a child is sitting in class around mid day, his or her nervous system is processing the temperature of the room, the smell of cooking lunch, the sound of the train outside, the glare of the overhead light on his or her page, the feeling of the tag inside a sweater, and the pressure of the desk he or she has been sitting in for 90 minutes.  In a properly functioning nervous system, this child would be able to take in all these senses, organize them, and allow him or her to pay attention to what is being taught.  Imagine one of those areas is not integrated properly. For example – if sound is not processed appropriately, that child will hear that train like a bull horn in his/her ears, making attending to the lesson impossible.

Our bodies seek out the input we need and avoid the input that is too much to function in any situation.  Every person is either a sensory seeker (you know who you are out there, you roller coaster riding-barefoot walking-toucher of every object as you walk through a store) or sensory avoider (don’t even think about having the TV and radio on at the same time while having a conversation, and forget that deep tissue massage!)  Truth is, most of us are a combination of these things during our day to help our body meet it’s various needs.  Chewing the end of a pen keeps you alert in a lecture the same way shifting in your seat does. I shake my foot as I fall to sleep – always have – and most people on my mother’s side of the family do. I now know, this is my own way to calm my nervous system down.   This is why we rock babies to sleep!

So what do you do if a child you love or you yourself have issues integrating sensory information? If the issues are severe and are affecting learning, sleep, and social interaction, you should seek the assistance of a physician and/or a sensory trained therapist in your area.  Occupational Therapists are most commonly the ones in our field with the most training in this area and there are some that are what we call SIPT trained.  This stands for Sensory Integration Praxis Test, meaning these folks have had extensive training in recognizing, administrating a detailed examination to determine needs, and prescribing appropriate treatment.  Treatment usually comes in the form of a general or very specific “sensory diet,” and no this does not mean food!  A sensory diet details the amount, type, and frequency of certain sensory activities to help your nervous system come to an optimal state allowing your body to fully function. For sensory avoiders or those low on a sensory threshold, this may mean “revving up” the system and for those who are already to revved up, this means calming it down.  

What does this mean for a “typically” (who is really typical, right?) developing child or adult? Feel that your child is not sitting through dinner? Make it part of your routine to run 5 laps around the house and jump off the bottom steps 5 times.  Do you have a student that fidgets or a child that can’t sit through story hour? Give them a stress ball to squeeze while paying attention.  The goal no matter how significant is not to ignore or stifle the sensory needs of the individual but to help them meet the needs their body is seeking out in an appropriate manner. This is why recess and P.E. and learning through movement are essential and successful components to learning. Children can acquire what their sensory system needs in this way!

Keep in mind that with the growing number of Autistic children in our society today we are also seeing a huge number of children with Sensory Processing Disorder.  These children and families often avoid fun community activities because their child’s different reaction to certain stimuli is frequently greeting with negative reactions.  If you keep in mind that these kids are not misbehaving but simply trying to regulate their nervous systems, we could all be more supportive to these families.


Observe your child today. What sensory activities are they avoiding or seeking? Do they crave deep pressure and find it through toe walking, jumping, or climbing? Do they seek vestibular movement through swinging or spinning? Are they finding visual input by running quickly as their world flies by them? Use what they need to help them get to the optimal sensory level to learn and play and enjoy knowing that you know something more about how your child is wonderfully made!

 Here’s our youngest having fun – and seeking out some sensory seeking behavior!

A Story for Parents




A friend recently shared this story with me and I want to share it with all of you.  Sometimes life gives us blessings but they are packaged a little differently then we imagined.  But they are blessings just the same!  Enjoy!


Welcome to Holland


I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this…… 
When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.” 
”Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”
But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.
But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.
Emily Perl Kingsley  1987

Night Night! Sleep Tight! Your Child WILL EVENTUALLY SLEEP – it’s alright!

For this entry, we decided to try and start a discussion about a topic that was proposed by a friend on our face book page: SLEEP! In particular, how to get your child to sleep so you can get some as well!

Remember in my last entry, I admitted that sleep was not a subject that was passed with flying colors on the parenting report card in our house? Well, I can share with you what we learned from our mistakes along the way!

I want to start by saying that there are many theories on sleep and many different methods and schools of thought. My BFF (and co-owner of Milestones & Miracles) handled sleep beautifully with her children.  The ease that her infants would fall asleep on their own and stay asleep left me in my own state of shock and awe compared to my finicky, non-sleepers. Her “go-to” reference is Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth, so if you are a person who likes to have a reference book handy, we thoroughly recommend it. In particular, it is a great source of recognizing and responding to early signs of sleepiness, resulting in restful sleep for your child. Also The No -Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley is a great resource.

In addition, I have found from talking with friends and observing daily routines in patient’s homes for years that sleep habits and practices, like most parenting skills, are very individualized and affected by tradition, culture, how you were raised, and your emotions.  Only you can decide what is right for your family and your child. That being said, restful sleep for yourself and your child and the ability to fall asleep and go back to sleep independently are skills every child needs to learn, regardless of when you decide the time is right for your child.  Think of it this way. Falling asleep and maintaining quality sleep is a life skill.  Place the same importance on it for your child as you would self feeding, dressing, or toileting.

Here are some tips I can share from our experience:

~ It is really important for your baby or child to fall asleep in their bed drowsy but awake.  We all sleep in a cyclical pattern of deep and light sleep periods. Between these periods, we open our eyes briefly and look around. If we are in the same environment that we fell asleep in, we usually fall right back into deeper sleep without realizing it. However, if we are not, we are aware of it and become fully awake.  Wonder why if you fall asleep on the couch, you usually wake up during the night? This is why! If your baby falls asleep in your arms or feeding or your child in your bed and then you move them, they will at some point in the night also become alarmed and possibly afraid.

I know what you are thinking (because trust me, I was there)…”great, but how do I get them to fall asleep on their own?”
Try one or more of the following:
~ Include the same evening routine every night. 
~ Chose activities that calm versus excite the nervous system. Avoid “screen time” (TV, videos, handheld games) at least 2 hours before bedtime.  The brain needs this “down time” to relax and wind down.
~Try a warm bath, a baby massage (or foot or hand massage for older children), a good amount of cuddling and reading, a familiar song, and/or prayers (if you are a praying person).  Whatever you choose, do a similar routine every night. Children feel safe with familiarity and knowing what to expect.  Keep the lights dim and limit noise. Swaddling a small baby or rocking your child also helps calm their nervous system.
~ It might be helpful to hold the reading and cuddling in the child’s bed vs. yours if transition is difficult.
~ Try a special or favorite plush animal or blanket, reserved “just for bedtime” as an incentive.
~ Around the age of 3 (and often later) children start to process their day at nighttime (just like we do).  Their concerns or worries might seem trivial to us but are very real to them.  It is not uncommon for night terrors (think nightmare on steroids) to appear at this age. To attempt to avoid them, allow your child to share something about their day.  This comforting part of their day, when snuggled close to you, might be the chance for them to share these feelings or anxieties.  Have you ever played “roses and thorns?’  We do this at dinner – sharing the high and low points of our day, but bedtime might work as well.
~ If your child is hesitant for you to leave, try one or both of these options (they were both suggested by friends who are professionals and working like a charm for us!):
* Reassure you child that you are just in the next room and are available if they really need you.  Let them know that you will come back to check every so many minutes as long as they are quiet.  Doing this rewards the positive behavior (staying calm and quiet, alone in their room) that you are desiring with the reward they are seeking (you!)  You can start with 1 or 2 minutes and build up to longer periods. If you decide to give this idea a try, be very consistent to not go into the room when your child is screaming as you will be rewarding the undesired behavior.
* If your child seems to need a distraction at night, try a book or several stories on CD or MP3 player in their room.  This is often the stage where a parent splurges for the kiddo TV but the visual stimulation is not helpful in allowing the brain to “relax” and for your child to get quality sleep.  With a story, they can become distracted in listening to the words (vs. worrying about sleeping), and practice their receptive learning skills while flexing that imagination muscle all at the same time!

This was a life saving move for us! After weeks of sleepless and highly emotional nights (for our daughter and for us), these two options finally helped.

Remember to look at your child’s overall state in regard to their success with sleep. If they are hungry or actually overtired, they are unlikely to sleep well.  Adjusting mealtimes and nap times (or making sure they get a nap) might be necessary.

If your child is fearful of those good old monsters, I’ve heard monster spray (air freshener or hairspray) works beautifully!

Like most stages, I’ve found that consistency is key and leads to a quality result faster.  I remember how painful it was when we broke our eldest of the habit falling asleep in our bed with me. I used to stay busy cleaning up and would eventually end up with the pillow over my head crying myself! One of the hardest tasks for me as a parent, was not to comfort my crying child.  But I realized it was my “job” to teach our daughters to be good sleepers.  Once I wrapped my tired, frazzled, emotional brain around that fact, we all started resting better!

Here’s wishing you all a great night’s sleep!

Curbing Cabin Fever

Not only do adults get cabin fever children do too!  With snow storms spreading across the nation over the past couple of weeks I thought it would be a good time to share some fun activities to help you entertain your little one(s) when stuck inside.  As a mother of two “active” children I’ve had to get creative.  And after this past weekend, when they were nearly climbing the walls, I started scouring the internet for fun things for them to do indoors. Here are some of the things I found and have tried:

-Fill the bathtub or kitchen sink with snow and let them play in it 
-Make snow ice cream
-Put towels down on your kitchen table or the kids’ table, fill up some containers with water and let them have a “tea party”
-Make a hopscotch board by painting squares and numbers on an old sheet
-Put some masking tape down on the floor to make a balance beam
-Stick them in the tub, no water, and let them draw with shaving cream
-Make mini muffins together by filling a mini muffin pan with muffin mix and then letting them decide what to mix into the muffins.  Put their choices in a regular muffin pan (chocolate chips, dried fruit, sprinkles, coconut., etc) and let them mix with a toothpick.
-Make a fort.  Line up the dining room chairs and drape a blanket over them to create your child’s own playhouse.
-Play games with your child like Simon Says, Hide and Seek and I Spy.
-Clean out the garage, bundle up the kids and let them go out there to jump rope, hula hoop and ride their bikes.
-Exercise with your kids.  I dusted off my old “Tae Bo” dvd the other night and my kids were entertained just watching me and then joined in to get a little exercise themselves.

If you have any suggestions to curb cabin fever please share them with us.  The good news is Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow, so before we know it Spring will be here and we can get back to the playground and swimming pool!

 

For more fun play ideas paired with developmental milestones, visit our HOME PAGE!

 

Becoming a master at recognizing the Pee Pee dance

This blog has been so much fun for us to write so far. Our goals in creating it were to inspire parents to learn about and enjoy their children and to share practical experience regarding early childhood development.  My first few blogs have been more heartfelt and this time around, I’d like to share something pretty concrete and practical — getting your child out of diapers!
I have to say, upon self- evaluation, my husband and I scored pretty average to below average on the parenting report card in the subjects of eating (our oldest paces and bites her fingernails at the sight of grilled fish), and sleeping (they never quite slept on a schedule or got quality naps, but can sleep anywhere (yes even concerts or football games) now – an added plus I must say. Despite these shortfalls (and trust me we’ve paid for them…my husband Brent even slept in the hallway outside one of their rooms on the floor for a few painful weeks), we seemed to do fairly well at potty training.
Our method (if you can call it that) is a combination of advice from our beloved pediatrician (shout out to Dr. Caldwell), our own parents, and trial and error.  In our extended family, we’ve had success with four children (our two and our niece and nephew) all being potty trained between 20 -25 months of age using this method. So, if you have a child left in your home to potty train – here’s hoping these tips are helpful!
Here are a few baseline facts to consider:
~ It is true that part of your success is determining when your child is ready.  When you see a pattern of bowel and bladder control (example: always dirty after nap or a certain time of the day), your child shows interest in the potty and all the fun that goes with it (the paper, flush etc.), and/or your child is letting you know when he/she has dirtied his/her diaper, they are likely ready to start training.
~ It is also true that it is not uncommon for boys to develop the sensation and urgency to void later than girls.
~ The personality of your child matters. If you have a strong-willed child, forcing potty training can turn into another arena for them to assert their independence.  Fighting against this strong will too early, or if your child is fearful of the situation, can result in disaster – including constipation and pain. Try to encourage but not force and let your child’s willingness be your guide.
Here are our time tested tips:
* I remember walking proudly into the pediatrician with my almost two year old. I was eager to let our pediatrician know that I had done my research, created a beautiful sticker chart, and let my daughter help choose stickers. I thought he’d be so proud. I was wrong! He shared that using the potty was a bodily function, just like blowing your nose. Would I reward her for blowing her nose with stickers or candy? Point taken. In his years of experience, he learned operating in this way often sets the stage for a power struggle. The sticker chart hit the recycling bin shortly there after.
* He also shared these other pearls of wisdom which were wonderful in our training. He recommended changing diapers in the bathroom and dumping contents into the toilet if possible. Doing so, will cement the fact this is where “it” goes.  He even suggested verbally reminding our daughter that this is where “it” belongs each time we changed her.
* Placing your child on the toilet at times of the day when success is favorable is a great idea. Immediately after waking up and before bath are often wonderful choices. Provide fun books, silly songs, and conversation, but don’t force your child to sit.  Keep the potty chair available and accessible, even if that means in the middle of the living room for awhile.
* Reward success with hugs and praise. Let your child know how proud you are of their “big kid” behavior.
* We found that training pants made of diaper like material (you all know what I’m talking about, but I don’t wish to publicly disrespect a particular brand) were expensive and not helpful.  They are so effective at wicking away moisture that the child never feels uncomfortable.  Without feeling uncomfortable – there is no urgency on the child’s part to stop wearing them!  Here’s the solution. Put underwear on your child and put a diaper on top. The underwear allows for the “ewww factor” and the diaper protects your floors and furniture.  When your child has accidents (and they will), help clean them up (in the bathroom) and put new underwear on.  Do not scold your child or make them feel guilty – they are learning. Remind your child to let you know that they need help using the potty next time. Rewarding accidents with putting a diaper or training pants on again let’s your child see that if they mess up, they can continue with the comfortable routine they are used to. Sticking to your guns (which isn’t always easy or convenient) lets them know that you are serious in supporting them through the transition to independent toileting.  It is true that at first, training them feels like (and sort of is) training yourself!
* Here’s the most important reminder – BE CONSISTENT. When you start potty training, you have to be consistent each time and all day. Trust me, children see the holes of inconsistency we create as parents and drive through them with their favorite Tonka Truck. Yes, this means you may leave an entire cart of merchandise in the middle of the Target isle running to the bathroom and praying you’ll make it the entire way. Yes, it may mean you don’t make it every time and your cart, your stuff, your child, and yourself will be soaking wet, forcing you to buy a new outfit right then and there. Yes, this may mean stopping 7 times in a 20 minute span on a road trip. The good news is that if you are consistent, this stage should be short and sweet! And you, my friend, will be rewarded with a proud child, a more reasonable weekly shopping list, and the reward of a smaller more fashionable handbag again! (or for those great daddies out there – no bag at all!)
We’d love to hear your tips and experience! After all – this is something we all have in common! Leave your comment below or visit us on facebook at Milestones & Miracles!
Here’s our oldest taking a break from tailgating during her potty training phase! When I look back, it makes me laugh, reminded of all the places that little potty went with us!

READ ALL ABOUT IT!

One of the things my husband and I try to do as parents is to establish some family time and some special time that we spend one on one with our daughters individually in daily routines. Children find stability and pleasure in routine and ritual and the tradition of reading at night with my husband is one our daughters certainly enjoy.
I adore that my husband has taken the role of exploring literature with our girls.  They have enjoyed progressing through the years of him reading to them as infants while they patted their chubby little hands on the pictures to researching new authors and enjoying weekly library trips together.  It’s surprising to me how much they covet this time, often choosing story time even over staying up late to do something else.  Our oldest child even asked for an entire book series for Christmas! I loved to read as a child, but I’m pretty sure I still asked for toys! I think their love of books has grown from this nightly routine – 30 to 45 minutes of reading snuggled up with good ‘ol Dad.
So, for this entry I picked my husband Brent’s brain to find out which books were his favorite, what did the girls seem to enjoy the most, how do they choose new books etc.  Here are some tips from our experience:
~ In the evenings, they choose a combination of books that the girls read to him and that he reads to them. I think this is a great point! Once your children start to read, practice is certainly important, but listening to you is not only enjoyable but continues to progress their receptive learning skills (or understanding something they hear).  Typically, receptive learning is more mature that expressive learning. This is why your baby knows that is their sibling or favorite toy and look when they hear a word before they can verbalize it.  Adults are no exception to this! I often know what I want to say before I can say it perfectly, don’t you? So remember to have your reading children read aloud to you, but don’t forget to read literature that is above their level to them!  And enjoy “baby books” for your infant and toddler, but try some longer picture books as well.
~ The library is fun, open most of the time and free!! Our daughters have loved this weekly ritual and all that goes with it – having a “book bag,” getting to know the librarian, searching for books on a certain topic, and finding favorite authors.
~ Swap books with friends! Think of it as a book club for kids! Children of any age can share books. After they read the same book they can talk about what they liked best and discuss the book in general.  An early reader/writer can even have a shared journal with a best buddy with lists of books they have read together and their thoughts on each one.
~ Don’t forget that nothing can open up the imagination like a good book. Have the winter blues? Head to the library and collect books on a topic. Try several books about the beach and make a seashell craft and play music from the Beach Boys. Collect a slew of animal books and when you are done reading them, head to the zoo!  Headed on a trip? Fuel the excitement and anticipation by reading about your destination before hand.
There are numerous excellent authors and books to explore but we wanted to share some of our favorites with you here:
Abby KleinFreddy Series: Each story explores a different problem of a first grade boy and shares how he works with friends to solve the problem.
Kate DeCamillo: Mercy Watson Series: This series shares the life of a fun loving pig that loves a great deal of butter! His love of butter gets him into trouble and sends him on many adventures.
Also by Kate DeCamillo: The Tale of Despereaux: My children love when my husband reads this lengthy chapter book to them!
Mo Willems:
The Pigeon Series: Fun Energetic Read Aloud. What will the pigeon try to do this time? Very silly…very fun!
The Elephant and Piggy Series: Great beginning Readers – short but funny stories about two friends.
Knufflebunny Series: Our family loves the tales of this girl and her beloved stuff bunny. Illustration are unique and interesting – a combination of real photography and cartoon images.

Bob Book series: Great to teach early phonics and independent reading

Bill Martin Jr. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom: My nieces’ (3 year old) current favorite. Excellent and fun rhyming series that introduces letters in a unique way.
Tim Egan: The Pink Refrigerator: The story of a magical refrigerator that teaches a rodent to give up his boring ways and experience life to the fullest.
Emily Jenkins: Toys Go Out and Toy Dance Party: Great read aloud! A dear story about a girl and her three best friends who happen to be her toys, who come to life while she is away or asleep (we are wondering if Toy Story the Movie was based from this book?)
Laura Numeroff: If you Give a (Pig, Mouse, Moose) Series. Fun and silly ways to explore cause and effect concepts and foster imaginative behavior.
Mary Pope Osborne: Magic Tree House Series: This is on our list for next go around. Gabriella’s teacher recommended this and my nephew is in love!  A fictional series about adventures of two children that incorporates adventurous stories with a non- fictional historical guide to places these children visit and explore.

What are your family’s favorites? We love sharing suggestions! Post your favorites here or on our face book site (Milestones & Miracles). Cuddle up with your little book worm today!!

 

Letting Them Live THEIR Dreams

“I want Emily to be the best Emily she can be.”
This is what a friend of mine said when she was asked what she wanted for her daughter’s life.  She was speaking from the heart.  She simply wants her daughter to live her life to the fullest and become all that she is meant to be. 
Often times, as parents, we place particular expectations on our children and when those expectations are not met, we are disappointed.  Or even before they are born we have decided their future profession and when they choose a different path we become discouraged.  What we need to realize is that these are OUR expectations and dreams for our children, not theirs.
I was disappointed this fall when my daughter told me she wanted to quit dance class.  In fact, she mentioned it a few times before we finally withdrew her.  I danced from the time I was 3 until I was 14.  Those were some of the best times of my childhood and I wanted the same for her.  I kept thinking she would change her mind if she just kept going, but she didn’t.  I was trying to convince her of the dream I had for her instead of listening to what she wanted for herself.  Now she’s in gymnastics and couldn’t be happier!  I should’ve listened to her sooner. 
I’m sure there will be more times like this in her life when I need to take a step back and remind myself to let her choose her path.  I just want so much for her that I sometimes get carried away!  But the quote above reminds me to celebrate my daughter for who she is; to support her ideas and encourage the good qualities and talents I recognize in her all while NOT pushing my dreams and expectations for her life upon her.  I hope the quote above inspires you to do the same for your child!

The most important lesson I’ve learned from Mr. Rogers

In our job as early interventionists, we work with children and their families as long as they need us from age birth to three years old.  After three years old, in most, but not all cases, they transition to a public preschool program that offers therapies and instruction.
Three years of working with a child and their family often seems to go very quickly and the bond formed is pretty outstanding.  We get the opportunity to become an extension of the family and are in tune with daily routines, extended family and friends, struggles, joys, dreams, and even the quirks of the family dog!
Some people work three years on a building project, a financial deal, or meeting a long -term sales goal. We get to work on building a happy child that can play, learn, and be safe out of their home and parents who feel comfortable with their child trying these new skills, without their parents’ presence, for often the first time.  If both occur, our shared “masterpiece” is complete. 
It’s a very emotional time when we “lose our kids.” Don’t get me wrong; it’s not all triumph and happy tears along the way. We have seen too many tantrums to count, have been hit, bit, and thrown up on.  We’ve wracked our brains at bedtime trying to think of that perfect toy or object to motivate a certain child or how to chose the right words to get through to a parent that doesn’t yet value following through with suggestions we leave behind. But these things pale in comparison to the pride that is felt when that child says their first meaningful word instead of screaming in frustration, can take those steps to get the toy themselves, or can touch their parent’s face to show love and appreciation in their own way.
When the time comes to transition a child, I share some of the emotions of the parent, but in a different way I am sure. I find myself asking appropriate question to the skills I teach as a physical therapist like, did I think of how they’ll do getting around the classroom?  In and out of their chair? To the cafeteria?  And I find myself asking myself questions unrelated to my “PT role.” I wonder how the child will do on the bus ride? Will they be scared? Will they like new friends or will they be overwhelmed?  And then I worry about their sweet parents…have I prepared them the best I could? I am certainly a worrier of others and I am working on it! But what you can see is that these children become like our own and their parents by extension are as well.  I am fiercely protective of them and pray for their happiness and success years after the have left our program.
I guess that’s why when parents tell me about an experience they have had out in the community, where someone says something about their child that they take offensively, it breaks my heart. Usually people don’t mean harm, and parents for the most part know this, but when you hear “What’s wrong with him?” It’s hard to resist replying “Nothing, What’s wrong with you!”
I’ve always loved Mr. Rogers. A family passed the quote below along to me years ago and I’ve always thought it was so accurate…
Part of the problem with the word ‘disabilities’ is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of the people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who are not able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities.” …Fred Rogers
Mr. Rogers is so right!  So when you see one of “my kids” out in public, model to your kids an appropriate way to behave.  Look the parent and child in the eyes and say hello instead of looking away.  If you are curious about the child, treat them the way you would any other child. Ask their name, their age, and what they like to do for fun.  If you know a child that can’t see or walk, explain that in simple terms to your own children and talk through ideas of how your child can play with them. Maybe find cool things for a child without vision to touch. Play ball with the child who can’t walk.  Modeling these examples for your own children will teach them to be accepting and compassionate people who have an understanding that ALL people learn and play in different ways.
I’ve found that children with so-called “disabilities” often significantly excel in areas other than where they are challenged. A blind child is the first to notice my new perfume or wristwatch. A child who has trouble moving is the best 3 year- old conversationalist I’ve ever met!   Look beyond what makes children different, and look to what makes them unique.  In doing so you’ll learn an incredible lesson that can often help you with your own “disability.” Each time I do, I’m blown away by what I discover.