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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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  • 02 Apr 2019 12:06 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Mary Verdi-Fletcher, Founding Artistic Director of The Dancing Wheels Company & School

    I have had the sheer pleasure of talking to and meeting thousands of children over the span of 38 years performing and presenting in educational outreach programs all over the world through The Dancing Wheels Company & School. I believe firmly that reaching children at a very early age is important while they are impressionable and before they develop stereotypical attitudes and fears.

    When meeting a person with a disability for the first time, the best thing to do is to allow a child to ask questions and to not pull them away if they are staring or are inquisitive. Understand that we are all different in a way, and that is OK. That is what makes for interesting friendships. For example, I use my wheelchair to get around while others use their legs and feet, but we are all able to get where we want to go!



  • 02 Apr 2019 11:44 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Kathleen resides in Cleveland and is the mom of three children.

    What do you do to relax?

    I am autistic also so my favorite ways to relax are sensory activities. For example, I love to go into the living room after everyone is asleep and turn off all the lights. I turn on music that really embodies whatever I'm feeling, sit in a comfy seat, and just let it be the only thing I'm experiencing.

    What else would you like to tell us about yourself?

    My oldest child is 20. My youngest is 4. We've always homeschooled, eventually settling comfortably into unschooling. That means just living our lives and letting the kids learn naturally through their hobbies and interests instead of any formal schooling. This allows more time and energy for self care and life skills, that actually take real work for us. I compensate for my executive function delays by relying heavily on technology. Google has an incredible suite of tools, and I automate anything I can. Robots already clean my floors, toilets, and litter box. I can't wait until laundry folding machines are within my budget!

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

    The biggest benefit for us is the sense of community and normalcy. The fact that SO many programs exist makes us feel like one of many, instead of one of the few odd men out. My youngest had developed an anxiety disorder by 3 years old because he was so alone in our old community.

    Which have been your favorite Connecting for Kids resources?

    Adapted storytimes and the Speaker Series have been great. Honestly, my family struggles with a bit of impostor syndrome and doesn't take advantage of as many resources as I'd like. I'm working on that, but am so used to being just a little too high functioning to deserve help that I'm still waiting to be told (like I always am) that my family is a burden, using up resources that are meant for families with more needs than us. Sarah has been clear that won't happen, but I have 40 years of conditioning saying otherwise.

    The area where I have grown the most...

    Is my patience. Before having children, I was such an angry person. I still hadn't been diagnosed with autism and the pressures, expectations, and behaviors of other people my whole life had been at odds with my own thoughts and behaviors. I was a cliché of anger, a leather jacket wearing, punk rocker, looking for a fight. The love I feel for my kids has softened me. My desire to support them has taught me to be more tolerant of the differences in attitudes and morality of others. It's helped me to become more goal oriented, instead of always getting caught up in the details.

    What I worry about most…

    I worry the most about something horrible happening to my kids. The older ones are so idealistic and trusting. I was the same way at their age, and countless awful people took advantage of me in countless ways. I was constantly targeted and victimized, and rarely even knew it until well after the fact. The youngest is the same way, and at this age it means he's prone to wandering and would happily wander off with a friendly stranger, in a city with one of the worst human trafficking rates in the country. The only time I'm ever at ease is when I have them all at home and know they're safe.

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

    Wrong Planet is a web community designed for individuals (and their parents) with Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD, PDDs, and other neurological differences.



  • 06 Mar 2019 9:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Lisa is from North Royalton and has a son.

    What do you do to relax?

    We listen to music or try to get his mind off what he is frustrated with. We also go swimming and take walks outside, sometimes in the Metroparks, to unwind and relax. Nature always has a way of helping us both to open our eyes, breathe and take it all in looking at God's beauty.

    What else would you like to tell us about yourself?

    We are glad there is a community such as Connecting for Kids that we can feel a part of and share our concerns as well as our victories with our little blessings from above.

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

    The Music Therapy & More class has benefited my son because it has given us a way to bond through music.

    Which have been your favorite Connecting for Kids resources?

    I like the podcasts, the music therapy classes and the Speaker Series.

    My greatest lesson learned was...

    Even though my child may struggle a bit more than other kids, he is so special and teaches me so much more about being a parent and about life. For that I am grateful.

    The area where I have grown the most...

    Learning how to connect with my son.

    The hardest thing for me to learn was...

    All kids have challenges and we need to put ourselves in their shoes at times. I know my son has come a long way and I am super proud of him, he is the light of my life and I am so blessed to be able to be his mom.

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

    Raised Good blog and my son and I love to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and "You are My Sunshine" together.


  • 06 Mar 2019 8:13 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Michelle K. McGuire, Esq., Special Education Lawyer, McGuire Law and Advocacy LLC

    Learning to navigate your child’s Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) can be overwhelming. Being aware of a few tips can ease the stress as you prepare for an IEP meeting.

    1. Ask for a draft IEP to review before the meeting.
    Review the IEP with your child’s educational evaluations. These evaluations are the key to your child’s educational needs; these needs are what the IEP goals should be addressing and teaching your child.

    2. The IEP goals must be meaningful and measurable for your child.
    One way to determine if a goal is meaningful and measurable is to compare the goal with the present level of performance (PLOP). The PLOP must tell you where your child is performing on the goal’s particular skill at the time the IEP goal is being written. This ensures that your child is achieving measurable progress that is meaningful.

    3. Each goal must have a corresponding service/instruction delivered by a qualified professional.

    4. Bring someone who will support you at the IEP meeting. 
    Someone who will help you stay calm, take notes and ask questions. Contact a lawyer if you feel that you and your support person can no longer handle the meetings alone or if you need more information about your rights.

    5. Don’t sign the IEP at the meeting. 
    You have the right to take the finalized IEP home to review and ultimately determine whether you agree or disagree with the entire IEP. The IEP is a legally binding contract between you and the district. Be thoughtful and take your time, your child’s future is at stake.

  • 12 Feb 2019 12:25 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Mary Lynn is from Amherst and has six children.

    What do you do to relax?

    I love to visit the lake or be near water, which brings me great peace. My prayer time is essential and has gotten me through so many struggles. I love to dance, any time of the day and anywhere for dancing comes from my soul! I enjoy gardening, camping and playing sports, especially soccer, swimming, biking & hiking-pretty much anything outdoors is relaxing. Any chance I can get you can find me reading. People will mention various TV shows to me and I usually do not know what they are referring to because I just don’t have time to sit down and watch TV. My mom is my best friend so any amount of time I get to spend with her, even if it’s just sitting next to her, brings my heart great joy. We can laugh at just about anything! Lastly, I attend a retreat for moms of children with special needs that has essentially saved my life and renewed my spirit.

    What else would you like to tell us about yourself?

    I have a Master of Science in Education degree, with a concentration in Education Administration from Ashland University, and my undergraduate work was in Psychology from Ohio University. I work full time for the Ohio Board of Developmental Disabilities at a Day Program for individuals with intellectual/developmental delays. I love that I still cherish my job even after working there for almost 24 years. My children are my everything and I love one-on-one-time with them which is super special. Once in a blue moon I have gone on a date with my husband and that is beyond essential because raising our son with autism has put such a strain on our marriage at times.

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

    Sarah Rintamaki came to me at a time that I thought I was going to lose my mind. I was connected to her through a support group for moms of children with special needs in which she was the guest speaker. Her story and support have been priceless to me, such a God-send. She does not know that her reaching out to me has been such a blessing in my life.

    Which have been your favorite Connecting for Kids resources?

    The Coffee and Chat support group where I brought my younger children to discuss their feelings about having a special needs sibling. The e-mails that keep me connected and informed are so valuable as well. I may not always be able to attend as many sessions as I would like but I like being informed and feeling included. The one thing that I would wish for is to have more CFK programs located on the west side of Lorain County because I would be able to attend more often.

    What I worry about most…

    I worry about the safety of my son due to his disability. My son appears very normal in the way that he looks, which is a grave disservice because then people expect his behavior to match his appearance, which can be very disheartening. I worry that other people may not understand him and could strike out at him for behaviors that are beyond his control. I also worry about his future such as will his behaviors worsen as he gets older and will he get into trouble for them? Will he be productive when he grows up? Will he ever be able to live on his own with supports in place? My natural instincts as his mother leave me feeling that there is no one who will be as concerned about him and love him the way that his family does.

    When my child's behavior gets out of control...

    I feel out of control at times too. I get aggravated because he is so set in his ways and is unpredictable in his likes on a daily basis. If he doesn't like the feel, taste, or sound of something he just won't do it. Take for example; getting dressed, eating, taking his medicine, and going to bed at night (his wants/agreement to anything is situational). He gets overstimulated at holiday parties or any event where there is a lot of people and/or noise. I have often thought how different life would be if he were an only child. I can’t help but think what a better parent I could be. Unfortunately, I have to meet the needs of his five other siblings who I adore but also vie for my attention. I believe that because I am worn so thin sometimes that it is so much harder for me to handle his idiosyncrasies. I love him with my whole heart but I do lose my patience when he is so stubborn, demanding and rigid in his ways.

    I get embarrassed when...

    My son acts out due to his anxiety. We will be in public and one minute he is fine and the next minute he can be hitting his siblings or swearing. He has a hard time calming down once he is overwhelmed and his behaviors will just escalate. I get frustrated and hurt because some of his own family members do not understand him nor do they know how to positively respond to him. It usually becomes a power-struggle because they do not understand that he gets over stimulated and acts out his anxiety. I especially feel hurt when other people act judgmental of him. We do not attend many social events and barely socialize with the neighbors due to my son's maladaptive behaviors. Lastly, it is incredibly embarrassing when we are in public and he is swearing and having a meltdown, such as my younger son's soccer or football games. I so desperately want to watch their games but can't when my son is acting out.

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

    I have found some solace in an online sensory processing group that has given me insight and support for my son who is autistic, Stages and Ages for Families Raising Individuals with Special Needs and Finding Cooper’s Voice have been so therapeutic for me to read online. Also, in addition to support from Connecting for Kids, Autism Speaks is a good support system as well.

    Is there anything else about your journey that you would like to share with other parents?

    Sometimes I feel so alone in my journey with my son. I know that there are plenty of parents out there who struggle with their children with similar and/or different concerns, yet it doesn't help the alone feeling, especially when I think that most families in the world do not have the daily struggles and do not face the embarrassment that my son causes when in public. It is difficult just to walk out the door each day because everything has to be planned around our son’s need for structure and desensitization to his sensory surroundings. Therefore, if my story sounds like it could be your story, just know that you are not alone and if you reach out to others who share your journey you may find great comfort too.


  • 12 Feb 2019 11:53 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Julie K. Robie, Esq., Deputy Director, Community Fund Management Foundation

    Every year, Community Fund Management Foundation (CFMF) receives grant applications from parent and guardians who wish to purchase disability-related items or services for a child with special needs. Successful grant applications tend to have several features in common.

    First, successful applications answer every question on the application form. Every blank is filled in, and all required supporting documentation is attached. This may include income information, proof of disability, or vendor invoices or receipts. There are usually limits on who is eligible to submit an application and how grant checks will be made payable, so it is important to follow all instructions carefully. Applications that are incomplete may be denied, even if funding is requested for a worthy purpose.

    Second, successful applications clearly describe the item or service to be funded, and they make a compelling case as to why the child needs that item or service in relation to his/her disability. They fully explain how the grant would be used and how the child would benefit. Furthermore, the type of request must match the mission and purpose of the grant program.

    Third, successful applications demonstrate financial need. The applicant must show that he/she lacks alternative resources to pay for the item or service. In addition, if the item or service costs substantially more than the grant amount, the applicant must explain how the balance of funds will be obtained. This shows the grant-making organization that if funds are awarded, they can be fully utilized for their intended purpose.

    Applications that meet these parameters should receive full consideration and will stand the best chance of being approved.

    If you are interested in learning more, Julie K. Robie, Esq. will be speaking at the upcoming CFK Speaker Series on February 23 entitled, How to Apply for Grants for children with Special Needs. Click here for more information or to register.


  • 09 Jan 2019 11:02 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Catherine is from Valley City and has three children.

    What do you do to relax?

    I love to read.

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

    Tools and resources that I never would have found on my own.

    Which have been your favorite Connecting for Kids resources?

    The Facebook group, because I can always count on this community to listen and understand.

    The area where I have grown the most...

    Is not judging other children and parents. I used to think, "If you would just be firm with your child, they will do what they're told." I feel so naive looking back at that. I see other parents, children, and even independent adults, struggling, and I really try to tell myself, "You don't know what they are going through. You don't know the whole story. Maybe they have autism, or maybe they have a situation in their life that is out of control, and this is how they're dealing with it." You just don't know.

    The hardest thing for me to learn was...

    I can't discipline my child with autism the same way I disciplined my older two, and it made me change how I treated them too. I was a firm believer in corporal punishment if time outs and directives didn't work. The older my child with autism got, I realized this was completely not working and never will. I still get frustrated and angry. Sometimes it takes all I have to leave and go to another room till I can calm down. I need to accept that my child cannot always control the behavior displayed. I am learning that positive words and positive reinforcement works so much better for all of my children. Because of being so literal, when my child with autism was spanked, she then thought spanking was OK to use on friends, siblings, parents, and anyone. It really took a long time for me to learn that perspective. I am still learning this lesson and it is not easy to learn at all.

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

    I really feel because she my daughter is beautiful and looks typical, that she is unfairly judged, even when they know her diagnosis! At our previous school, it seemed like all rough housing by boys was dismissed. When girls got rough, they were instantly reprimanded, and got a consequence. I know when we are at stores, or church, I really feel judged when behavior is out of control, because there is no evidence to the contrary that she is not typical.

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

    I always recommend Connecting for Kids! I also want to recommend STEPS Academy and its Willow Farms and Broadview Heights branches. I had my daughter at Willow Farms last year and she really blossomed there. She wanted to return to mainstream school this year, and she is doing so well, she is like a new child.


  • 09 Jan 2019 10:38 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by ChrisTina L. Reed

    The Cleveland Clinic Transgender Medicine and Surgery Program

    Learning your child is struggling with gender identification can be overwhelming, possibly leaving you wondering what to do next but there are resources available to help navigate this complex challenge.

    1. Understanding the Scope of the Issue

    It is critical that your child feels supported and accepted at home.  According to a recent article posted on suicide prevention website www.thetrevorproject.org, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24. In a national study, 40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt and 92% of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25.

    2Finding Professional Support

    It is essential to find a competent, affirming mental health provider familiar with WPATH (World Professional Association of Transgender Health) guidelines to support your child and family. Continuous discussion of one another’s challenges and goals will help assure the best possible outcome and soften the potential challenges and disappointments along the way. 

    3. Make Connections
    Familiarizing yourself and loved ones with terminology (such as preferred pronouns, acronyms often used, etc.); gathering resources and making connections in the community may help you feel empowered and more comfortable with situations that may arise.  Knowing you are not alone is often helpful and community support is available; a great place to start might be your local LGBT Community Center as they may offer support groups tailored to your situation. 

    4. Respectful Communication
    Your child might request using their preferred name and/or pronouns or change their physical appearance by wearing different clothing and hair styles; it is important that caregivers and role models offer messages of support so the child feels they always have a safe space to go during times of struggle.  Disagreements between parents regarding intervention and even smaller changes such as preferred names and pronouns can often arise and should be handled with respect and care, a family counselor may have the best conflict intervention techniques to help make these important decisions a bit easier to make together.

  • 04 Dec 2018 10:57 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Michelle is from Westlake and has four children.

    Which Connecting for Kids resources have you tapped into to help your child?
    We really love Music Therapy & More and try to sign up every month.

    The bad habit I picked up...
    Giving her a tablet. It has helped her with music, songs and speech, but sometimes it's easier to give her that so I can deal with the other kids.

    When my child's behavior gets out of control, I feel...
    Stuck in a cycle of trying to calm her down, not knowing exactly what she may want or need. She doesn't always communicate "I need help”, so it's a guessing game.

    The hardest thing for me to learn was...
    No child is perfect and every child is different! It is so true, and hard to remember to NOT compare each child from the next. They all learn at their own rates, some quicker and some slower. My daughter was in physical therapy until she was about 2 1/2 because she was not walking. At the time, it never dawned on me that she could have a visual issue. After getting her eyes checked, she was diagnosed with multi-sensory processing disorder. I am still learning about the diagnosis and ways to help her calm down, process and learn. She also has a severe speech delay but has made huge improvements through speech therapy at her preschool. She has made so much progress this year. She can now walk up and down steps holding the rail or wall, but still needs assistance with bigger steps like our van and school bus. We are also working on the potty and different kinds of drink cups.

    Is there anything else about your journey that you would like to share with other parents?
    This is a journey and we are in it together!

  • 04 Dec 2018 9:28 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By: Shannon Sonnhalter, BS, CCLS, Child Life Senior Manager (Enterprise Child Life) & Jessica Timms, BA, MS, CCLS (Fairview Hospital)

    Cleveland Clinic Children's Child Life Services

     

    Shannon Sonnhalter, Child Life Senior Manager (Enterprise Child Life)

     

    Jessica Timms, (Fairview Hospital)

    It is no surprise that the hospital is a scary place for anyone, whether visiting a patient, bringing in a patient, or becoming one. This is especially true for children. The machines, the beeps, the codes being called, and all of the unfamiliar faces can quickly raise any child’s or parent's anxiety.  At many area hospitals, including Cleveland Clinic Children’s, Child Life Specialists are available to assist and guide families through these healthcare experiences.

    In healthcare settings, Certified Child Life Specialists help infants, children, youth and families cope with the stress and uncertainty of acute and chronic illness, injury, trauma, disability, loss and bereavement.  Child Life Specialists are educated and clinically trained in the developmental impact of illness and injury. Medical experiences without developmentally appropriate preparation and support can lead to feelings of fear, confusion, separation, isolation and loss of control. Our goal is to see hospitalization through the eyes of a child and address not only the medical issues but to enhance the patient experience in the process.

    Child Life services are individualized to the patient’s developmental needs, abilities and concerns. Some of the most common child life interventions are: preadmission surgical preparation and tours, procedural preparation and support, therapeutic and medical play opportunities, sibling support, new diagnosis teaching, coping with chronic illness, and bereavement support. These interventions increase understanding, decrease misconceptions, promote positive coping and reduce fear, anxiety and pain.

    The Cleveland Clinic Child Life Program employs twenty Certified Child Life Specialists throughout the healthcare system. You can find child life at the Main Campus Children’s Hospital, Fairview and Hillcrest Hospitals in addition to Beachwood, Strongsville, and Westlake Ambulatory Surgery Centers.  Child Life Specialists are available by appointment for various areas of the hospitals. This consists of pre-arranged surgery tours to prepare children for what to expect and normalize the surgery environment, outpatient procedures such as lab, radiology exams, and various other test and procedures.

    To make an appointment with a child life specialist prior to a child’s visit, please call the child life department at 216.445.6454.  Please provide the reason for contacting child life, Cleveland Clinic location and a brief description of your request and a child life specialist will return your call within 24-48 hours.

    Please note: Child Life Specialists are also available at other area hospitals and medical facilities. Please click the links below for contact information and description of services provided.

    University Hospitals Child Life Specialists

    MetroHealth Child Life & Education Program

    Akron Children's Hospital Child Life Specialists

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