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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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  • 11 Apr 2018 2:49 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Elizabeth is the mom of five children from North Olmsted.
     
    What do you do to relax?
    Workout, listen to music, lay out in the sun, go to the beach, drink coffee and cuddle babies in the NICU.
     
    What else would you like to tell us about yourself?
    I am a stay at home mom of five children including twin boys, Nicholas and Dominic (10), Sofia (7), Luciano (5) and Livianna (2). I enjoy running, biking and swimming with our children along with playing board games and having family movie nights. My husband and I enjoy date nights.
     
    What benefits has Connecting for Kids brought to you and your family?
    Connecting for Kids has supported our entire family, from Coffee and Chat programs and the Speaker Series for my husband and myself, to support groups for our kids, to putting a smile on our son’s face who struggles with sensory and behavior issues.
     
    Which have been your favorite Connecting for Kids resources?
    Music Therapy & More and Teach Me to Play.
     
    My greatest lesson learned was...
    Just because your infant may seem like there is nothing wrong at birth doesn't mean that developmentally everything is OK. It takes time for sensory and behavior issues to show up. So you are never in the clear with thinking that there will never be a diagnosis or issue to deal with down the road with your child.
     
    When my child's behavior gets out of control, I feel...
    Helpless. It makes me so sad for him that I can't make him or his body feel better when he is so out of control. It breaks my heart to see him so overwhelmed with how his body and brain are feeling due to sensory and behavior issues.
     
    The hardest thing for me to learn was...
    As a mom, you like to think you can make anything better for your child and can take away their pain.  I can't always make things better for Luca. When you want to hug your child because they are sad, sometimes they don't want to be touched, that is heartbreaking as a parent. 
     
    Is there anything else about your journey that you would like to share with other parents?
    Yes, that I have been blessed with an amazing husband who has supported me and our children in this journey. Keeping that marriage strong is really difficult to do when you are dealing with a struggling child. We make date nights a priority and our communication is amazing. We support each other and pick each other up when things get really crazy at home, which is ALOT.  We are so thankful and appreciative to Connecting for Kids who offer so many resources and support to help our entire family throughout this journey. 
     

  • 05 Mar 2018 1:17 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Kelly is the mom of one child from Lakewood

    What do you do to relax?
    Read.

    What else would you like to tell us about yourself?
    I am a stay-at-home mom pursuing Master’s degree.

    What benefits has Connecting for Kids brought to you and your family?
    We are able to participate in programs, network with other families and attend CFK community events.

    Which have been your favorite Connecting for Kids resources?
    Teach Me to Play, Music Therapy & More, Adapted Storytimes and the CFK Facebook page for parent referrals.

    The area where I have grown the most...
    My first negative experience was at my son's first parent teacher conference in preschool. The teacher did not have one kind word to say about my son. She did not have solutions and seemed to be only listing his faults. I did not sleep for days after that meeting with worry and concern. I was afraid of my son struggling and being treated different, not only by classmates but by a teacher. I met with the teacher, insisted on an action plan, pushed and pleaded for her to see my son through my eyes and recognize his strengths, kind heart and unique talents. It was like trying to draw blood from a stone. We had City District school evaluations in which my son was adored and viewed with unending potential. At my son's doctor evaluations, even though I heard things I was afraid of hearing, I was able to return my focus on my son's positive attributes. I realized that sometimes it is just the wrong situation, not enough training/knowledge or the wrong mix of personalities. It is OK to make changes and say goodbye to something you initially thought was a long-term solution. A school might need to place my son on an IEP, but that does not change the fundamentals of who my son is - kind, loving, bright with unending potential. My son has slowed my pace, opened my eyes and enlarged my heart. In a world crying out for more kindness, creative solutions and healing, he is the embodiment of it. I see the irony now in anyone who sees my son as delayed, little potential, not fitting in or odd. And I feel my son has given me a gift to see this same potential in all children and families.

    If I could go back in time and talk to myself the day we got the diagnosis I would say...
    Don't worry mom, you've got this (most of the time, and those times you aren't on top of it all, are OK too)!

    The best thing about parenting a child who struggles is...
    My son has made me a better parent, wife, daughter, sister and friend. I am the oldest of five children and grew up babysitting siblings, cousins and neighbors. Babysitting was my part time job as a student in high school and college. I graduated from college and went into business, traveling, conference calls, training, managing a team of 13 people, interacting directly with executives of Fortune 100/500 Companies, etc. I felt like having a baby would be a time to relax and re-group. I guessed the "re-group" part of the equation correctly. My son was a challenge. My son turned out to be a greater learning experience than a meeting with the executives of any top corporation and certainly more than any challenging babysitting job in my past. Not only has my son made me a better parent, but he has made me a kinder and gentler/patient person.

    Do you have any recommended resources such as blogs, websites, or books that we can share?
    This book helped figuring out a bedtime routine based on age and ability "The Sleep Lady's Good Night, Sleep Tight" by Kim West

    Is there anything else about your journey that you would like to share with other parents?
    CFK has been an incredible resource and helped me beyond measure along my journey. CFK continues to be there as I continue to move along the path with my son. Sarah is an inspiration to me. Her team is fantastic.

  • 07 Feb 2018 1:56 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Lisa Huckins
    Education Program Specialist
    Ohio Department of Education
    Office of NonPublic Educational Options


    Many private schools offer financial aid and scholarships to families interested in enrolling.  Parents should talk to the private school about those options.


    The Ohio Department of Education also offers scholarships to help families afford tuition at participating private schools or special education service providers. Students assigned to underperforming public schools, students from lower income families and students with special needs may be eligible to receive a scholarship.


    General Education Scholarships can help pay for tuition at participating private schools. The scholarship amount is $4650 for grades K – 8 and $6000 for high school. The application deadline for the following programs is April 30:
    • The EdChoice Scholarship Program offers students in grades K – 12 the chance to attend private school for little or no cost.  Students attending low performing public schools can qualify for these scholarships regardless of their family income.
    • The EdChoice Expansion Scholarship is an income based scholarship for any Ohio student entering kindergarten through 5th grade whose family income is at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.
    Special Education Scholarships can be used to pay for tuition and special education services from participating private schools and service providers. Award amounts are based on the student’s primary disability and range from $7,588 to $27,000. There is no deadline to apply for the following programs:
    • The Autism Scholarship Program is open to students whose public school district has found that they qualify for special education with autism as their primary disability.  The student must be at least three years old and have a current Individualized Education Program (IEP) with their public school district.
  • 07 Feb 2018 1:33 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Tina is the mother of three from Olmsted Falls.

    What do you do to relax?
    Read, collect craft supplies that I never use, and clean (just kidding-I hate to clean).

    What else would you like to tell us about yourself?
    I have three gifted children. Having a gifted child is not like winning the parenting lottery. Gifted children are intense, have strong emotions, and do not necessarily do well in school. Many are 2E (twice-exceptional) and struggle with anxiety, attention, and all of the other diagnoses that bring us all to Connecting for Kids. Having a high IQ does not mean that your life is easy. It simply means that your brain is wired differently than most.

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

    Which have been your favorite Connecting for Kids resources?
    The annual Meet and Greet. It is like one-stop shopping for every resource I could want.

    My greatest lesson learned was...
    Picking my battles. I used to think I could control everything. When my first born was a baby, he went through a period of time where he would only look at things to his right. He would look up at me during feedings and turn towards a sudden sound, but then go back to looking to his right. Then one day he just stopped. All of sudden he would be just as likely to be looking left as he was to be looking right. Who knows why? I have realized that I am no match for that kind of single-minded determination and that I had better save my energy for the things that really matter, like wearing pants to the grocery store.

    The area where I have grown the most...
    Advocating for my children. No one knows better than I do who my children are and what they are capable of achieving. Before we decided to send our son to Kindergarten early we asked his preschool teacher her opinion. She recommended against early entrance based on my son’s emotional outbursts and anxiety. My gut told me that keeping my child from doing the school work that his brain craved was not going to help his intense emotions or feelings of anxiety. In my experience, most people expect gifted children to be bright, high achieving students, not the quirky, intense, sometimes pain-in-the-butt people they actually are.

    The bad habit I picked up...
    When I tell someone that my children are gifted I immediately list things that they don’t do well. I have had so many experiences where people reacted badly, as if I was insulting their child by saying mine is gifted, that I want to let them know that I am not bragging. So I’ll say something like, “Yes, my son is nine years old and taking Geometry, but he can’t ride a bicycle.”

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


  • 08 Jan 2018 4:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Krista is the mother of two from North Ridgeville.
     
    What do you do to relax?
    Read books and shop/browse at bargain/thrift stores.
     
    What else would you like to tell us about yourself?
    I have two sons both are special needs. They have different challenges. I am blessed to have a supportive family. I am thankful for special needs programs and organizations like CFK to gain insight and knowledge from others to help my husband and I best help our boys.
     
    What benefits has Connecting for Kids brought to you and your family?
    I am able to connect with other parents to give and receive advice and tips. It is this mutual support that helps as there are moments or days that can extremely challenging.
     
    Which have been your favorite Connecting for Kids resources?
    Our schedule is hectic with therapies and appointments. Online support has been a huge help and the resource we utilize the most.
     
    If I could go back in time and talk to myself the day we got the diagnosis I would say...
    Do not worry about what other people think. You need to be your kids' best advocate. Trust your gut and do whatever you have to without worrying how others will feel/react (therapists/teachers/doctors etc.) If you feel they aren't helping or don't agree with something, speak up and make changes or decisions to help your kids.
     
    How parenting a child who struggles has changed my ideas on parenting...
    There is no right or wrong way to parent. You just find out what works and approach it in whatever way that works best for you. What is considered typical isn't always realistic and doesn't need to be. I always say our life is our "normal" and it may not be right for other families but it is what works for us. I used to think let's get through life one day at a time...now it's more like one minute. Often times parenting two kids who struggle is overwhelming and you just have to deal with what is happening right that second, move on to the next and so on.
     
    The hardest thing for me to learn was...

    Stop comparing my children to others. Every child is unique and different and what works for one doesn't always work for another.


  • 08 Jan 2018 3:47 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Judith L. Pitlick, MA, LPCC
    Hanna Perkins Center for Child Development
    www.hannaperkins.org

    Four-year-old Michael was misbehaving. The teacher, Mr. Carpenter, was speaking quietly to him, helping with feelings the young boy could not express verbally.

    “Michael, if you are missing mommy and feeling sad, we can talk about her and make her a picture,” he said. “You can miss mommy and still feel like a big schoolboy who can manage and be safe.”

    Nearby, Alex had been watching this interaction out of the corner of his eye while building with blocks. Unexpectedly he lashed out and knocked down the building of the girl working next to him. While the little girl howled, Alex appeared unconcerned about what he had done and continued building.

    The assistant teacher intervened. After hearing the girl’s side of the story, she turned to Alex and asked, “Are you angry at her?” Alex refused to speak, then teared up and put his head down. It was only when Mr. Carpenter approached that he looked up, ready to speak. “I wanted you to help me with my feelings,” he said.

    Both in the classroom and at home, young children need help learning the “language of feelings.” Addressing a child’s behavior (what he or she is doing) is different from addressing feelings (what he or she is experiencing on the inside).

    As adults, we tend to focus on the doing instead of the feeling. It takes extra time to help a child listen to the feeling inside, and find a constructive way to express it.

    We might think we already know how a child feels, but often the child surprises us. Alex seemed angry and unfeeling, but inside he was longing and hurting. His teachers might have thought he acted out because he wanted attention, but they took the time to find out Alex was really asking for some kindness and compassion.

    He saw Michael receive comfort and consolation from Mr. C, and Alex wanted the same for himself. He just needed some help to understand what his strong feelings meant – and some guidance on a better way to express them.

    Learning points

    • Help the child figure out ways to express feelings safely: Use words, get a hug, take a walk.
    • Help the child with difficult feelings while you are calm.
    • Praise the child for using words instead of acting out.
    • Help the child label specific feelings: happy, sad, jealous, mad, excited, surprised, lonely, hurt, scared…
    • Trust that when the child knows the words for feelings, he or she will use them – though it may take practice and require gentle reminders.
    • Upset and anger directed at a child creates more upset and anger.
    • Remember, the adult is always the model for the child.
  • 27 Nov 2017 11:29 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Lisa Ruman, LISW, CHt, The Child & Family Counseling Center of Westlake


    1. Good Communication is Key
    It is critical that couples learn how to communicate effectively and not be afraid to discuss sensitive and difficult topics. Conflict is inevitable and a part of relationships. Without the fundamentals of effective listening and understanding, couples can become stuck on major issues. Research by the Gottman Institute found that 69% of conflict is unsolvable. However, management of the conflict through empathy, compassion and understanding leads to good communication and healthy relationships.

    2. Stay Connected to Your Partner
    Continual support of one another’s future hopes and dreams and your shared goals as a couple are important for staying unified. Daily check-in conversations with one another, engaging in shared interests and hobbies, and regular date nights away from kids helps to keep the relationship strong and deeply connected. The strength of a couple’s relationship ultimately determines the family’s success.

    3. Parent Together, Not Separately
    Loyalty to one’s own child is real and valid, and feels very strong. These feelings can make stepparent discipline a very delicate issue. Remember that trust develops over time between stepparents and stepchildren. Communicating about these issues and establishing roles for parenting and discipline early on is key.

    4. Time is Critical
    According to James Bray, author of Stepfamilies: Love, Marriage, and Parenting in the First Decade, blended families often do not feel like a unit until several years after formation. Give it time to come together and develop as your own unique family. Couples can help the process along by developing special traditions. Weekly game or movie night, regular family outings, and shared experiences often help in the process. It is a marathon not a sprint.

    As you and your partner journey through the challenges of blended family life, always remember that you are on the same team. Keeping the commitment you made to one another as an intentional part of your lives can ease the struggle. Strong marital relationships act as the foundation of the blended family’s happiness and success.

  • 21 Nov 2017 11:56 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Ingrid is the mom of two from Cleveland

    What do you do to relax?

    Exercise, read, knit/crochet and spend time with my husband

    What else would you like to tell us about yourself?

    I work part time at the YMCA and I just started substitute teaching at several districts. I also volunteer with our therapy dog, Lucky.

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

    We have gotten such great advice and information as well as support of fellow parents and caregivers who "get it"!

    Which have been your favorite Connecting for Kids resources?

    Other families and caregivers have been so helpful!

    The area where I have grown the most...

    I feel I have grown the most as an advocate for my child. I think back to the first IEP meeting and I was CLUELESS! Now, after research and education (and a great team), I feel so much more confident and capable!

    What I worry about most…

    I worry about my son's future. I know every parent shares this worry. My son is an identical twin, but his twin is "typical". I hope that they can learn from each other’s experiences, even more, because they are great team already!

    I get embarrassed when...

    I have to wrestle my child away from a situation in public. Puberty is rough and impulse control is not my son's strong suit. It's often hard to explain to a young girl that my son wants to smell her hair!

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

    I really enjoy the Autism Daddy blog because his son is the same age as my son. I often read it and think "yes! Us too! I feel the same way!"

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

    It has been an adventure and I am so grateful that we can all have a sense of humor about the struggles we've faced!


  • 02 Oct 2017 2:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Ashley, of Rocky River, is the mom of one son.

    What do you do to relax?
    Exercise, go outside, swim

    What benefits has Connecting for Kids brought to you and your family?
    My son has had opportunities to build on social skills. He really struggles to respond to peers and engage in play with peers. Teach Me to Play has given him a chance to play with others in a more structured setting. He loves attending and always asks when he gets to go to "play group" again.

    Which have been your favorite Connecting for Kids resources?
    Teach Me to Play, the speaker series (these are so important for families that may be new to a diagnosis)

    The area where I have grown the most...
    Advocacy. You are and will always be your child's biggest advocate. Pre-diagnosis, I would have just sat back and trusted what any professional said or recommended. I would have let a stranger guide where his life would go.

    Then it became obvious that something was going on before he turned 2. My doctor wanted to "wait and see". I wouldn't accept that. I got a 2nd opinion and a referral. He was diagnosed and receiving therapy before his 2nd birthday. At his appointment, she hadn't even read that he was diagnosed and wanted to "keep an eye on his speech." If I hadn't trusted myself, his diagnosis could have been so much later.

    Same goes for IEPs, school meetings, therapy. Never feel like you have to give in. Never feel like you don't have a say. Never be afraid to speak up about what you want for your child and what you feel is appropriate. Never let anyone make you feel like you don't know your child best. Most teams are wonderful and receptive to what you have to say, so don't be afraid to speak up. After your child grows, transitions, moves to bigger things, you will be the only consistent person on their team.

    If I could go back in time and talk to myself the day we got the diagnosis I would say...
    Don't cry. He is going to be amazing. He will go above and beyond what any piece of paper says.

    Diagnosis day was tough. I am a special education teacher, so when I was told my own child had a disability, my world was shattered. At that point in time, he was completely nonverbal, had no coping skills, and would often engage in self-harm. At that moment, he was so off in his own world, it seemed like he didn't even know his mom and dad.

    He received his diagnosed before age two and started receiving full time intervention right before his second birthday. Along with his normal school programming, he received speech, OT, and PT all within the same program. For the first year, his progress was slow, but obvious. He started to attend to his name and point. He gave single word approximations. His self-harm disappeared. A few months later, he began using Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). Within a few months of using PECS, he began using words, then two words, then small sentences. After less than a year, he was no longer nonverbal and was able to communicate on his own.

    Today, you would never know he was once nonverbal. He tells stories, teases, and delights in amusing everyone he meets. He is so happy and absolutely knows his mom and dad. His frustration can be quickly communicated. He still struggles with social situations, but with practice, he picks up on every skill he needs to be successful.

    I was so uncertain what his future would bring. I spent so long feeling bad that I forgot to relax and enjoy my perfect son. I am no longer afraid. Whether he goes to college, goes to a vocational program, or lives with assistance, I know his life will be fulfilling and wonderful. He has showed me that he is capable of anything.

    The best thing about parenting a child who struggles is...
    He has taught me to appreciate everything he can do. I always hear people saying, "I wish my kid would be quiet once in a while," or, "Why can't they just leave me alone?" It took him so long to find his voice that I appreciate every extravagant story. I appreciate that he knows me, seeks me out, and wants me to hear what he has to say. If it weren't for having a child with a diagnosis, I would have never learned to love all the things most people take for granted.

    We'd love to know if you have any go-to resources such as blogs, websites, or books that we can share with other parents.
    Bacon and Juiceboxes: Our Life with Autism (blog on Facebook, an awesome family's autism journey, and they're just awesome people), Chloe Rothschild (can be found on Facebook or online, she's an adult with autism and she does a lot of public speaking, amazing resource for parents and individuals with ASD).
    Is there anything else about your journey that you would like to share with other parents?

    Every success, no matter how "small" or "minor" is still a success. Every day, good or bad, is an opportunity to learn and grow. And it doesn't matter where you are in your journey, you are their biggest fan and they are yours.


  • 02 Oct 2017 1:36 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Brea Schmidt, writer behind the local blog The Thinking Branch. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or visit her website.

    I am a mom to three kids aged five and under.

    They are three very different kids with very different personalities who handle frustration and social situations differently.  It’s a great challenge to determine how to help each of them navigate their world; knowing that what works for one may not work for the other.

    But one thing I know is the same: I want them ALL to be kind along the way.

    Recently, as we navigated a phase with my little man where he had been using aggressive actions and words when he became upset, kindness became a word we were repeating often as we tried to help him handle his conflicted feelings in a more positive way.  The good news? We’ve seen a huge turnaround in him. The better news? It was a great reminder for the whole family.

    While no approach is universal and every family and every child is different, here are some things that helped us move toward more kind, peaceful interactions at home….

    Using the word “kindness” when disciplining an unkind action.
    When my kids are being unkind, it’s my natural instinct to say, “That’s not very nice! Don’t do that.” After a while, I started realizing that the response was not only bringing more negative energy to an already on-edge situation, but it WASN’T encouraging a positive action.  Now, instead of telling them what NOT to do, I’ll say, “Try again. Show me how you can use kindness instead.”

    The result?  It makes them stop and think. Could they use different words? A calmer, more respectful tone?  A different action?  

    The coolest thing is that, after WEEKS of repetition, I’ve seen my little man catch himself right before he’s about to scream at his sister or yank something out her hand when she comes over to try to play with him. Now probably 7 times out of 10 he’ll say, “Please don’t touch my toys. I want to play by myself, please.”  We are making progress!

    Pointing out when kindness happens to THEM - and talking about how it made them feel.
    Here’s a simple example.  My daughter is visibly sad because the neighborhood kids are playing and she had no one to play with.  A friend in the group sees her, and chooses to come over and play with her.

    The discussion will go something like this:
    Me: “That was very kind of (friend) to do that for you.  How did that make you feel?”
    Daughter: “Good.”
    Me:  “What will you do the next time you see someone feeling sad in school just like you were?”
    Daughter: “Try to do something that will make them feel better like (friend) did.”

    The hope is that if she recognizes how it feels to receive kindness, that she will be more aware of situations where she can give it.

    At bedtime, talk about how kindness was a part of their day
    Sometimes this brings up a cute story about how they shared a toy at school, but sometimes it starts a conversation about how someone may have been unkind to them.  Either way - it prompts a KINDNESS discussion that gives me an opportunity to reinforce the importance of not only being kind, but helping them handle situations when someone is unkind to them.

    Showing THEM kindness when they are having a bad day
    Parenting is HARD.  Life can be STRESSFUL.  So when one of our kids is having a bad day and acting out, sometimes it wears our patience thin.  But - in an effort to be an example of kindness for my kids - one of the things I’ve tried to remember is that just like I have bad days and sometimes say hurtful things, my kids do too.  So extending them kindness and empathy every once in a while when they are breaking down… is a way to show them to be kind and empathetic to others if they are having a bad day, too.

    Our kids are growing up in a challenging world.  I know that I can’t protect them from adversity, but I do know that I can give them the tools to handle it.

    And I hope that kindness is the first tool they reach for.

    Brea Schmidt is a writer, photographer and advocate for authentic momming. Her blog, The Thinking Branch, is a community that aims to find authenticity and perspective in discussions about motherhood and daily life.  She also owns the Ohio-based family photography business Photography by Brea.  When she isn’t writing, photographing or navigating life raising her three young kids, you can usually find her listening to country music or cheering for her favorite sports teams.

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