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The Monthly Connect - Online

Welcome to The Monthly Connect - Online. The Monthy Connect is sent out regularly via email to Connecting for Kids subscribers. This page also contains many of our great articles. To get a copy of The Monthly Connect in your email inbox next time it comes out, Join Us today!

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  • 05 Jun 2020 2:03 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Amanda lives in Parma and has three children.

    How are you and your family dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic?

    It has been a hard couple of months, I was teaching from home, which made it very difficult to also be a parent at the same time. I have been trying to give myself a little more grace than normal. My boys have been doing okay, we have seen a few behaviors that we thought had left behind but we are working through them. We are thankful that we all remained healthy.

    What do you do to relax?

    During the summer, I love to be outside with my family, going for walks, kayaking, going to the beach.

    What else would you like to tell us about yourself?

    I’m an intervention specialist.

    What benefits has Connecting for Kids brought to you and your family?

    It’s made me feel less alone and that it is truly okay to have all different emotions throughout the process of the evaluation and then the diagnosis. And that the battles won’t last forever and just keep faith that things will get better.

    Which Connecting for Kids resources have you tapped into to help your child?

    I am on the Connecting for Kids Facebook group and we have attended a Coffee and Chat as well as Music Therapy & More classes. My husband is a part of the dad’s Facebook group. He also enjoys being a part of the softball team with the dads as well.

    Which have been your favorite Connecting for Kids resources?

    Being able to chat with other families that are going through similar paths and being able to chat and not feel like you are being judged for your child’s behavior good, bad or ugly.

    If I could go back in time and talk to myself the day we got the diagnosis I would say...

    It’s just a diagnosis, it won’t change anything about our son. It will just help get him the resources he needs to be successful in years to come.

    The hardest thing for me to learn was...

    That this process is long and an emotional roller coaster but even after you have the diagnosis you have to learn what’s next and how to move on with life. Will life ever really be the same? I wanted to fix it. I didn’t want my son to struggle but in reality, was he really struggling? I was upset and thinking why my son. It took me a long time to realize that everything was going to be okay. That autism didn’t change our family in a negative way, yes things are harder at times but it makes us see things in a beautiful way we never did before. And when things are bad it’s only a season and it won’t last forever.

    The worst thing about parenting a child who struggles is...

    Is the way the world views him, even though they have no idea what is really going on. That the world is not kind to people who are different.

    Do you have any recommended resources such as blogs, websites, or books that we can share?

    Just communicate with the CFK group and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

  • 22 Apr 2020 1:43 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Rasheena lives in Euclid and is the mom of two boys ages 2 and 7 years old.

    How are you and your family dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home order?

    We are coping the best we can. My older son has ASD, ADHD and sensory processing issues so getting him into a routine and used to doing his schoolwork from home has been a challenge. It is difficult for him to understand that although he is not physically at school, he still needs to be doing the work. In school, he has an aide who works with him but at home I feel like I am a drill sergeant trying to get him to stay on task. The school is doing a combination of Zoom and pre-recorded video lessons so it is a lot of time sitting by the screen which is hard for him. I am working 40 hours a week from home so I’m trying to get my work done and manage him too. I’m getting anxious about our summer plans. He usually attends camp five days a week and participates in a reading program. I am not sure what I am going to do if those are canceled.

    What do you do to relax?

    I take deep breaths, long bubble baths and drink tea. Since I work full-time, I really try to relax and regroup at night after the kids are in bed so I am ready to take on the next day.

    What else would you like to tell us about yourself?

    I love traveling, cooking, gardening and reading. I also love being a mom and an advocate for my son.

    What benefits has Connecting for Kids brought to you and your family?

    We really love the Music Therapy & More program. We originally attended in Westlake but were thrilled when it was offered at the Euclid Public Library near where we live. I am very grateful that I can bring both of my kids at the same time. Even though they are five years apart, they both love the program and get something out of it.

    Which Connecting for Kids resources have you tapped into to help your child?

    I have found great support on the CFK Families Facebook group. Through Connecting for Kids, I have been able to find east side resources to help my son including an occupational therapist and adaptive aquatics program.

    Which have been your favorite Connecting for Kids resources?

    My favorite Connecting for Kids program is Teach Me to Play. My son has been able to socialize with other kids, play games and participate in fun activities. It is a judgment free zone. Also, I have been able to ask questions and get suggestions from the program facilitators of things we can work on at home.

    My greatest lesson learned was...

    That this is a journey with different phases as my child gets older. I also have had to learn patience and understanding for the times he struggles and makes mistakes. He learns differently so it is up to me to provide learning experiences that work well for him.

    The area where I have grown the most...

    Learning about the IEP process. At first, I was really resistant to the idea of an IEP for my son but that is mostly because I didn’t understand what it was and how it could help him. Now, I know that the IEP is there to give him what he needs to be successful. Today, I love to advocate for him and be involved in the IEP process, helping to set goals and watching his progress.

    The hardest thing for me to learn was...

    No one knows your child better than you do so trust your instincts. I also learned that you can’t do it all by yourself and you need to ask for help. I’ve had to take my “cape” off and let others help care for my child. At first, I had a lot of fear letting others help but it has been wonderful having family members engaged with him and part of the process.

    Do you have any recommended resources such as blogs, websites, or books that we can share?

    The Understood.org website provides lots of tips and helpful advice on how to deal with his ADHD and sensory processing issues. I also feel it is a great resource when I have questions or need clarification on something pertaining to his IEP. A book that has been helpful for my son to deal with a few school situations has been “What is Empathy?: A Bullying Storybook for Kids” by Amanda Morin and John Joseph.

  • 22 Apr 2020 12:22 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    While we are at home trying our best to implement distance learning and also attempting to work on IEP goals, we thought we'd pass along a technology tool that is helping one of our CFK staff members. Today, we feature a tech tip from Joellen Podoll, Connecting for Kids Professional & School Liaison.

    Joellen’s children have both been able to take advantage of Messenger Kids from Facebook during the stay-at-home order. According to its website, “Messenger Kids is a free video calling and messaging app for smartphones and tablets. Parents control the contact list, and kids control the fun.”

    Joellen’s Kindergartener struggles with anxiety and social skills issues. For her, Messenger Kids has been a great way to work on social skills from home using the video calling feature. Joellen’s daughter is very shy and quiet in the classroom but by using this app, she has become more comfortable with her classmates and has been able to connect on a level that she never has in person.

    Messenger Kids has even been a great tool for keeping her daughter in touch with an out-of-town grandmother. Every day, the two of them talk using the app and do activities together. Most recently, grandma was escorted via the app through her granddaughter’s obstacle course. Not only has the time together been great for Joellen’s daughter and helped to boost her confidence, but grandma is also enjoying the conversations and the ability to stay connected.

    Joellen’s typical, third-grade son has also taken advantage of the app. Being an extrovert, the time at home spent away from friends has been difficult for him. He uses Messenger Kids to stay in touch with classmates both one-on-one with friends as well as in group settings.

    Before signing your child up for Messenger Kids, Joellen relayed two pieces of advice. First, she recommends that your child watch this free BrainPOP video about internet safety. Second, she suggests you snooze the Messenger Kids app at night. She learned that the hard way when classmates were calling early in the morning before her kids were out of bed.

  • 22 Apr 2020 11:49 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by: Cate Brandon, Psy.D., Kenneth A. DeLuca, Ph.D., & Associates, Inc.

    Meeting a counselor for the first time can be intimidating for both parents and children. Knowing what to expect in a first session can help you and your child to feel more comfortable.

    Often, your child’s counselor will want to meet separately with parents first, to gain a thorough background and reason for your visit. This allows the adults to talk openly, without making the child feel uncomfortable or embarrassed and giving the parent an opportunity to ensure the counselor will be a good fit for the family.

    Typically, the child will meet independently with the counselor in their first session. Often toys, games or crafts are used to set your child at ease. Some of the session will be spent establishing a relationship, by talking about your child’s interests and activities, friends, family and school. Once the child appears comfortable, some of the concerns that initiated counseling can be discussed, and your child may learn some techniques to try at home. The counselor may meet briefly with parents at the end of the session to review these strategies.

    One way to introduce the idea of counseling to your child is to describe the counselor as an emotions coach or teacher. These are labels that are more familiar to children and establish the counselor as a helpful adult who will teach them something new. Be specific about how the counselor may be helpful to your child (e.g. “She can help you learn to calm yourself down when you are upset” or “He can help you to feel less worry about going to school”). It is normal for your child (and you!) to feel anxious about a first visit, but your counselor will be well equipped to help everyone feel at ease.

  • 31 Mar 2020 10:11 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by: Meghan Barlow, Ph.D., Meghan Barlow and Associates

    Telemental health is the term used for mental health sessions that are conducted via phone or video conferencing.

    Research on telemental health suggests that it can be as effective as in-person therapy in terms of clinical outcomes. Clients engaged in telemental health report high levels of satisfaction and rapport with their clinicians. It’s actually the clinicians who tend to be more hesitant to engage in telemental health. The legal, technical, and practical aspects of offering telemental health can be daunting and many clinicians report that it’s harder to pick up on nonverbal communication during virtual visits. Clinicians who work with younger children may find it hard to develop rapport with kids over video conferencing.

    Mental health clinicians should be specially trained to deliver telemental health. There are ethical and legal considerations that need to be understood by a clinician. Additionally, there are also clinical issues to consider.

    Under normal circumstances, platforms like Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime should not be used to deliver telemental health. These systems are not HIPAA compliant. However, during this pandemic, some rules have been “relaxed.” Clinicians are encouraged to make every attempt to comply with the usual regulations, but are given some leeway to use their best clinical judgment in order to make sure that their client or patient’s mental health needs are being met while we are all being asked to stay at home.

    Telemental health sessions are not always covered by insurance or Medicaid/Medicare. You should check with your carrier to see if your sessions will be covered. In the past, video conferencing sessions were more likely to be covered than phone sessions because they are considered “face to face” care. During this pandemic, it is acknowledged that not everyone has access to the required technology for video sessions and, therefore, phone sessions may be covered.

    One aspect of telemental health that clients and clinicians need to be aware of is confidentiality. It is sometimes difficult for a clinician to know whether or not a session can be overheard by someone else and therefore, clients share some responsibility in making sure that they are in a private area. Clinicians working from home during the pandemic have a responsibility to make sure sessions can not be overheard by others in their home.

    While we’re all getting used to using video conferencing platforms, we have to be prepared for technology related glitches. If the internet connection is poor, clients and clinicians should have a back up plan for how to get in touch.

    If you’re going to engage in telemental health, your clinician (or your child’s clinician) should provide you with an informed consent form. This document outlines the potential limitations of telemental health and the roles and responsibilities of the clinician and client/family.

    If a child is already working with a therapist who can offer telemental health, I would encourage the parents to talk to their child’s clinician. A clinician should be able to make a recommendation for a specific client regarding the utility or need for televisits. If parents are looking to begin therapy for their child, I would encourage them to call the clinician they have in mind to get some information and give some information. There isn’t necessarily an age criteria for when and if a child could participate in telemental health. If it is determined that the child might not benefit from telemental health sessions, there is still a possibility for the clinician to work with the parents through televisits.

    Personally, I would make a decision about whether or not I thought we should have a virtual consultation - an initial visit where the parent or caregiver would give me pertinent background information, share their current concerns, and answer any questions I have related to their child’s development, behavior, or emotions. I might “meet” the child during the televisit and try to gauge the child’s willingness and ability to interact over the video conference. For a very young child, I may be observing their play in the background while I talk with the parent. I would be able to give some recommendations about how to move forward. That might include parent coaching (me working with the parents who would then adjust or modify their approach with their child in order to achieve the identified and desired outcome), me working with the parent and child together, or me working with the child individually. I also might make recommendations about involving other specialties or services. It would depend on the questions and concerns the parent brings to the table and the information and observations that I could glean from the televisit.

    Clinicians can utilize telemental health in ways that are innovative and convenient with children. Using creativity, clinicians can find ways to engage with younger clients in a playful way. Screen sharing can help clinicians use visuals in therapy, as they would if they were meeting in person. My colleague, Dr. Dukes-Murray, recently attended a training in assessing autism in toddlers using telemedicine. In one of the telemedicine webinars I attended, the psychologist leading the training mentioned that she runs groups for children as young as 8 years old through video conferencing.

    Transitioning my practice to telemental health has been eye opening for me. Until a few weeks ago, I only engaged in telemental health on a very limited basis and only under certain circumstances (an established patient away at college, phone sessions with a parent whose work schedule prohibits attendance at in-person sessions, etc). As I adapt to the need to stay at home and keep others at home while still being able to meet the needs of my patients and families, I’ve been able to stretch my own skill set and learn new approaches. I’m excited about the possibilities that will open up for me and the families I work with now that I’ve had training in telemental health and the necessity to become comfortable with the technology.

  • 03 Mar 2020 2:11 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Linda M. Gorczynski, Attorney, Hickman & Lowder Co., L.P.A.

    If your child has an IEP, he may be entitled to receive special education or related services in the summer, at the school’s expense. This is called ESY or Extended School Year services and you’ll see it in section 4 of the IEP form.

    A student should qualify for ESY IF the IEP team determines that the services are “necessary” in order for the child to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (“FAPE”). The most traditional way to qualify is if the student has a history of regression after long breaks, as can be seen with behavioral needs. Another common qualifier is if the student is on the cusp of mastering a particular skill (such as reading) and the extended break would curtail that progress. But it all comes back to whether ESY is necessary for THIS particular student to receive a FAPE.

    ESY looks different for every child, and it must be tied to a specific goal(s) on the child’s IEP. The school cannot limit the “type, amount or duration” of ESY services. So if you’re told that the house ESY program is the only option, this is not supported by the law. The team needs to find or develop an ESY program that meets the child’s unique needs. Wilson tutoring? Social skills camp? Small group math? The team can get creative to meet the need.

    If you think your child may qualify, ask for an IEP team meeting to discuss eligibility. Always put your request in writing so there is a record, and include your reasons for making the request. It takes time to locate or develop an appropriate program, and sometimes there is a dispute as to the child’s eligibility, so you don’t want to wait until the last week of school to start the process.

    If you want to read Ohio’s legal guidelines on ESY go to OAC 3301-51-02(G).

  • 03 Mar 2020 1:50 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Ely is from Bratenahl and has four children.

    What do you do to relax?

    I love to go out to a really great, local restaurant with my husband. I also enjoy going to church, watching Masterpiece Theater, playing the piano, reading a good novel and walking our new Labrador Retriever. And just recently, I started my first professional position since having my first child 10 years ago. I am a virtual reference librarian and am helping non-traditional university students with their research, which is a a fun escape and challenge at the same time

    What else would you like to tell us about yourself?

    I am the mother to four children with special needs. Our first born has autism, our second born is gifted, and our twins are both diagnosed with autism. All four of our children were born within 38 months of one another. Our family life is unique and we have found great support and help from the CFK community.

    What benefits has Connecting for Kids brought to you and your family?

    The connections to other families with children who struggle! I've met so many amazing and selfless parents through CFK. I also appreciate that CFK has expanded its coverage to families with gifted children. As a family who has twice exceptional children, I've often struggled finding resources that pertain to my twice-special kids. CFK is always thinking ahead about how it can expand its benefits to ALL children and I appreciate that.

    Which have been your favorite Connecting for Kids resources?

    The Facebook group has been the easiest for this mom of four to connect with others. I also appreciate the Playground guide and the Music Therapy & More sessions.

    My greatest lesson learned is...

    to never give up advocating for my child, no matter what the "experts" or the school administrators may think. I've always heard "you know your child best" but never believed in my own capacity as "mom" especially when compared to child psychologists or other health professionals. I've recently learned to trust my own intuition, knowledge and experiences over those who barely know my child at all. This is a lesson I wish I would have learned sooner.

    What I worry about most…

    is the future. But I've learned that I need to get beyond that worry. That struggle is daily for me and my husband. I've also learned this is a normal struggle and that if I need to talk, another CFK mom is having a better day than I am and that we can work through it together. And I know that I can be a person who can help another mom focus on the "now." It’s all about what we surround ourselves with to help us with not being overcome by worry...whether that be our faith, our spouse, our friends, or even a mental health professional. I've learned that I can only do so much to address the future of my children with special needs and then, I need to jump in and address the issues of the present day.

    The best thing about parenting a child who struggles is...

    seeing all the therapy, all the extra socialization and all my own advocacy, pay off. When you see your child master that ONE skill you've been tirelessly working on you can't help but smile, cheer or even cry. A skill that we've worked on with my son is having a reciprocal (back and forth conversation). On a random visit to his "new" school, the school librarian pulled me aside and told me how nice it was to see our son initiate a conversation with a new friend and be the leader within that interaction. I was so pleased that he had applied what he had learned in his natural environment. And even though I missed this successful moment, I'm so happy that my son could manage this once difficult skill without the extra support of me or a therapist! These are the moments I carry with me to get beyond the difficult situations that special needs parents often experience.

    Do you have any recommended resources such as blogs, websites, or books that we can share?

    As a former consumer health librarian, I can't say enough about the librarians at your local public libraries. They are there to help you navigate the plethora of information related to your child's needs and your needs as a special needs parent. Be candid about what materials you need to understand your child better and be forthcoming about what you want to learn more about, whether that be new autism research studies or how to improve your child's diet, or even searching for a fiction novel to help you escape your reality for a little while (we all need a break). There is not much that is beyond the scope of your local public or consumer health hospital librarian!

  • 11 Feb 2020 4:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By: Nikki Rotshtein, OTR/L, Occupational TherapistGalvin Therapy Center

    Before we can improve on executive functioning skills, we must first build them in our children – starting from a very young age. What we do for them when they are young will become glaring deficits as they get older. Let's remember to coach them and not criticize to make them want to do more.


    • Tidy bedroom or playroom with assistance. (Often by using a backward chaining method – start with you doing the first 75% and have them complete). This takes a huge mountain of a job and makes it into a small hill. They will also feel accomplished vs. overwhelmed. You can continue to scale back as you see they are managing it as their "just right challenge.”
    • Perform simple chores and self-help tasks with routines such as clear dish from table after mealtime.

    Kindergarten – Grade 2

    • Run errands (with two to three step directions).
    • Perform simple chores and self-help tasks with reminders such as making the bed before going downstairs in the morning.
    • Bring papers to and from school. Complete homework assignments (20-minute maximum).

    Grades 3—5

    • Run errands that may involve time delay or greater distance such as going to a nearby store or remembering to do something after school.
    • Tidy bedroom or playroom (ask them what they might prefer, for example, vacuuming or dusting).
    • Perform chores that take 15—30 minutes such as cleaning up after dinner, raking leaves or cleaning up from the cake they just baked with you.
    • Keep track of belongings when away from home (sleeping at a friend's, returning library books).
    • Plan simple meal prep or baking activity and create menu/shopping list needed.
    • Keep track of changing daily schedule such as different activities after school.

    Grades 6—8

    • Help out with chores around the home, including both daily responsibilities and occasional tasks (emptying dishwasher, raking leaves, shoveling snow). Tasks may take 60—90 minutes to complete.

    High school

    • Make good use of leisure time, including obtaining employment or pursuing recreational activities during the summer.

    Soon they will go from helpless to helpful!

  • 10 Feb 2020 5:28 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Jaime is from Bay Village and has two children.

    What do you do to relax?

    Go for a walk, have some wine, take a hot shower.

    What else would you like to tell us about yourself?

    I’m a stay at home mom to a 20-month-old, a 5-year-old and 3 fur babies. I survive on coffee, wine and laughter.

    What benefits has Connecting for Kids brought to you and your family?

    CFK has given me a place where I feel understood and validated in my feelings and struggles. It’s so nice to read posts from other parents who have gone or are going through similar experiences as us. It’s also a great feeling to be able to help other parents who are struggling with something we might have dealt with ourselves.

    Which have been your favorite Connecting for Kids resources?

    The CFK events are great ways to interact and meet other families and gain knowledge. We haven’t been to many unfortunately due to our wild schedules, but we hope to attend more this year. We have found some great doctors for our son based on other parent’s recommendations. This has been huge for our family, we all know how hard it is to find a good doctor or specialist, and when you add in our son’s special needs it makes it even harder. Having parents to ask first has been beyond helpful.

    The area where I have grown the most...

    The area where I have grown the most is being confident in myself and my child. Looking back, I spent so much time skirting around his struggles, making excuses and brushing things off. It took me a long time to tell people outside of our close family and friends about his diagnosis. Even then it almost felt like it was someone else’s kid I was talking about. I’d stumble over the words and question if I was saying it the right way.

    Two years later, I am very confident and comfortable talking about my son’s Autism, his therapies and his struggles. When I meet a new person it’s one of the first things I mention about my life, even though Autism doesn’t define him or our family, it is a big part of our life that affects daily decisions and routines.

    What I worry about most…

    What I worry about most is my son’s future. It feels so far away, but it also feels like it’s right here, dangling over my head. What will it look like? Will he ever live independently? Have a relationship? Or will he live with me forever? And then enter the fears of what will happen to him if something happens to me. It goes on and on and on.

    We thought getting the diagnosis was the hard part, but looking back it was almost the easiest part of it all. We know he has Autism, we know it’s forever. But no one knows what that means. No one can tell us what is going to happen, or what we need to do to give him the best outcome. Everyone has ideas and opinions and knowledge for us, but when they start conflicting each other ... then what? We make choices as we go, based on our gut and what we think is best for our son.

    The best thing about parenting a child who struggles is...

    The best thing about parenting a child who struggles is what it has taught me about life and being a mom. To celebrate all the small things, and see the beauty in all of it. Things that would be easily overlooked by some, can stop me in my tracks and leave me staring in awe of my child. I appreciate every little hug, every kiss and every word spoken. Without his diagnosis I can’t say I would see things the same way I do now.

    Do you have any recommended resources such as blogs, websites, or books that we can share?

    Finding Cooper’s Voice and Carrie Cariello Exploring the Colorful World of Autism are two of my favorite bloggers. I highly recommend The Explosive Child by Ross W. Greene, PhD. to parents with kids who struggle with their emotions.

  • 07 Jan 2020 4:24 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by: Bridget S. Richard, LISW-S, Owner, Lamplight Counseling Services, LLC

    Bullies are everywhere. Even as adults we run into people who use aggression to influence others and get their way. Though most parents want to protect their children from bullies we can’t always be with them. The next best thing is to enable your child to handle a bully with assertiveness skills.

    Bystander awareness teaches us how to assert ourselves if someone else is in a helpless situation. Teaching our children about bystander awareness empowers them not only to avoid confrontation but gives them the tools they need if they, or anyone they know, is in a dangerous situation.

    These skills can be broken down into 4 steps C.A.R.E.

    Create a Distraction: Your child can start a new game which will bring others closer to them. They can walk up to the person, while ignoring the bully and state that the teacher or principal needs to speak with them…right now!

    Alert Authority: School counselors, teachers, principals, and resource officers are all good resources for when situations get out of hand. You can ask to have desks moved, lunch times changed or other accommodations which will separate your child from the person they are having trouble with.

    Redirect: Try using 'fogging' to deflect the bully. Fogging means making a joke or funny comment that makes it seem you don't care about what the bully said. You can also pretend to agree with the person. For example, you could say something like, "Guess you must be right", or "Well, since I'm such a …. I’ll just go, bye."

    Engage Others: It’s hard to stand up to a bully alone, and they know it. Therefore, helping your child to develop a peer group within and/or outside of school is so important. When children have other people their age to rely on it is difficult for a bully to make them feel isolated.

    If your child needs help with a bully or with learning assertiveness, reach out. There are many wonderful programs which are ready to assist them.

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