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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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  • 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.

  • 05 Sep 2017 1:48 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Sarah is the mother of three from Elyria.

    Do you work outside the home? If so, what do you do?
    I am an occupational therapist at the Mercy Health Children's Developmental Center in Amherst. I am a therapist in the schools and work at Menorah Park Nursing Home some weekends.

    What do you do to relax?
    I love to craft, read, watch TV, and shop when I have time.

    What else would you like to tell us about yourself?
    I am a mom to three amazing girls. My oldest two were born premature (26 weeks and 29 weeks) so since day one, we have been on a journey I never thought I'd ever be on. When my second daughter was born, we found out she had PVL (periventricular leukomalacia) which turned into a CP (cerebral palsy) diagnosis. I try my best to work with her each day but it gets tough to balance. I struggle because sometimes I want to just be a mom and sit back and watch my kids play, but I am constantly trying to do things that will strengthen and improve my daughter’s abilities. I am blessed though because I know my path in life brought me to this moment so I would be prepared and able to be the best mother I could be. It has helped me see the needs in the community for our kids and I am working hard to make things more accessible to them. I am scared a lot of the time, wondering what lies ahead, but each day I am beyond blessed as I watch her succeed in ways I never thought possible.

    What benefits has Connecting for Kids brought to you and your family?
    I reached out to Connecting for Kids when my daughter first got her CP diagnosis. There are no other support groups in the area for cerebral palsy and I was grasping for anything and anyone I could find to make sense of it all. I was connected with some people but I just wasn't ready. Eventually, after coming to terms with the new diagnosis, I was more open to getting involved. CFK has since developed a Moderate-to-Severe Disabilities Facebook group which has connected me to SO MANY amazing families who are in similar situations. I can reach out with questions about therapies, adaptive classes, equipment, resources, etc. The list goes on and on. It gets lonely in the special needs world but CFK offers us an amazing group of people to connect with. We have gotten together for lunches, dinners, swimming, and Go Baby Go car rides at the park, and recently have become very good friends with some truly amazing families who I consider some of my very best friends.

    Which have been your favorite Connecting for Kids resources?
    I have benefited the most from the Moderate-to-Severe Disabilities Facebook group and the Parent Match program. These resources have connected me to so many wonderful people and so many resources. The Meet and Greet is amazing and allowed me to find programs in the community I didn't even know were out there.

    If I could go back in time and talk to myself the day we got the diagnosis I would say...
    "Let me give you a hug"...It's a terrifying diagnosis because there is so much that is unknown, especially at a very early age. I would tell myself that right now, it is ok to be scared, and mad, and depressed because this is not what you had planned. I would tell myself that things will get overwhelming, all the appointments, the specialists, the therapists, the equipment, the home exercises, etc. but it will be manageable. I would then tell myself that this is still your child, your love, and each day, you love that child the best you can. You will realize that sometimes, you don't see the diagnosis, you just see your child as who they are and you love them no matter what. There will be many days, more than not, that you hate the diagnosis and you still wish for things to be different, but you will begin to see the world from a whole new perspective and cherish the "little" milestones and huge accomplishments. Take support from family, friends, and whoever offers it because you will need a break and seek out families in similar situations.

    I get embarrassed when...
    I get embarrassed when we go in public and I have to carry her, help her stand, or constantly help her sit up. We recently got a wheel chair, and I was scared to death to get it, but since we have gotten it, it has become my best friend.  She is no longer the big girl in a stroller, she is a 4-year-old in a cool pink wheel chair and it gives people a little better understanding of what is going on with her.  I get embarrassed when I have to lug the walker, a high chair, an adapted chair, an adapted bike, an adapted car, and/or braces when we go to a get together or go out in public. I would do anything for her to be able to sit in a regular chair, walk and ride a regular bike.

    I’ll also say, between the years of 2-4 for me were very hard.  I was faced with the reality that my child is not where she should be. Once I came to terms with her deficits and her own individual strengths, it has made it less embarrassing to be out in public because I have embraced who she is.

    The best thing about parenting a child who struggles is...
    I see small miracles happen each day with each new skill gained, no matter how small. The long and difficult journey makes it that much more rewarding! She is becoming more aware of her skills and now also becomes excited and proud over the little things like holding a cup with two hands!
     
    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.
    Welcome to Holland, by Emily Pearl Kingsley, is an amazing poem and was a huge help to me when we got the CP diagnosis. I frequently think about it and it helps me to remember that this journey is not the one I had planned but it is still beautiful. Another great Facebook group is: CP Warriors, Mommies, Daddies, Grandparents and Caregivers. It is run by a mom of a girl with CP and has members from all over. It is a wealth of knowledge and support for treatments, therapies, equipment, etc. I have reached out many times to get information from others who have already gone through it!

  • 05 Sep 2017 1:34 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By: Nicole Gerami, M.A., CCC-SLP
    Speech Language Pathologist and owner of Nicole Gerami, LLC and the FIT Program
     
    Many parents of children with special needs consider adding a social skills group to their child's therapeutic program. Early childhood is the time when kids learn extremely important foundation skills so that they can engage in conversations, relate to others, and, ultimately, make friends. Social skills are tied to many other aspects of development, including language and social emotional development. By nature, social skills happen in a dynamic fashion, with people reacting to each other's comments, questions, facial expressions and body language.

    Social skills groups, when well taught and balanced with typical peers, provide a naturalistic environment in which children can practice conversation, engagement and cooperative play with each other. Think of groups as a venue where kids can work on the performance aspect of their developing social skills as opposed to simply learning skills in a one-on-one situation. A well-crafted social skills group should be run by a licensed professional such as a speech language pathologist (SLP). These individuals are experts in understanding exactly which skills a child needs to develop.

    For example, a group led by a speech language pathologist would focus on communicative  functions such as greeting others, taking turns, answering, requesting, thinking flexibly, and even refraining from interfering behaviors. As well, the SLP knows how to encourage eye contact and help children become focused on each other rather than their own thoughts or objects and events in their environment. 

    The best social skills groups are formed with children who have similar profiles, cognitive abilities and interests. The format should include a direct lesson followed by cooperative games, table-activities and play. There are many curricula out there that target social skills.  Your professional will pick a program that best suits the needs of the children in the group while also designing a treatment plan with the unique needs of your child in mind.

  • 06 Jun 2017 2:03 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Q: "Can my child with special needs attend sleep away camp at Camp Cheerful and what are some tips to make the transition to camp easier?”

    A: Kathy Henry, Manager of Marketing Communications,
    Achievement Centers for Children

     
    As a parent of a child with special needs, you might be a little apprehensive about sending your child to an overnight camp, especially the first time. A little preparation ahead of time will help the transition for your child, and for your family.

    Tips to make the transition easier:

    - Visit the camp with your child.  Call to have a tour with your child before their camp session. Check out all the different activity areas with your child, such as swimming, fishing, horse barn, games, camp fires, crafts, and especially their sleeping cabin. This will help them visualize their days and help to reduce their anxiety.

    - Take photos at camp during your visit. Use the photos to talk with your child about what they will be doing at camp. Share positive and consistent messages to them – your attitude will be contagious.

    - Involve your child in their packing. Get a list of what to bring, and what not to bring from the camp. Let your child make choices about what they will bring – blue shorts or green shorts?

    - Practice sleepover. Arrange to have your child sleep overnight at a friend or relative’s house to feel more comfortable away from you.

    - Tuck a note of encouragement or photo into your child’s bag to remind them of home.

    The Achievement Centers for Children Camp Cheerful offers residential co-ed sessions in a beautiful outdoor environment in the Cleveland Metroparks for children and adults ages 7 and older with special needs. Camp counselors are experienced in caring for campers with special needs and a nurse is on duty 24 hours a day. Siblings and friends are welcome to join campers for a week of fun!

    Your reward for your thoughtful preparation will be a child that returns home with smiles and stories, has gained a little independence and confidence, and is anxious to return to camp.

  • 06 Jun 2017 1:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Joanne is the mother of 2 from Lakewood.

    Do you work outside the home? If so, what do you do?
    I am a Research Analyst for a bank.

    What do you do to relax?
    I run and play the sax.

    What else would you like to tell us about yourself?
    I like to stay busy and have a pretty active life.

    What benefits has Connecting for Kids brought to you and your family?
    We have gotten many good recommendations on programming as well as connected with other families.

    What has been your favorite Connecting for Kids resource?
    The Meet and Greet event to learn more about therapies offered and summer camps.

    If I could go back in time and talk to myself the day we got the diagnosis I would say...
    I would be more open about our struggles early on. I feel like I spent a great deal of time trying to convince friends and family my kid was "fine". Once I let go of that and became open with others about our struggles I began to really be able to dig in and help my son by getting the help he needed and the friends I needed for the journey.

    The hardest thing for me to learn was...
    Not to compare my child to typical kids. Even if the accomplishment seems small compared to what other people's children do, not to disregard it but celebrate the victory.

    The best thing about parenting a child who struggles is...
    How it changes your outlook on life. My son loves the little things in life. The little things, that most kids don't even notice, bring him such joy. I envy how happy he is and try to experience joy from the smallest of things as well.

    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.
    I'm a research analyst by profession so I'm always "researching" ways to help my kids. I try to keep learning and trying different things with my kids hoping to stumble on the best combination.

    Is there anything else about your journey that you would like to share with other parents?
    You are your child's best advocate. Don't forget that. There have been times when professionals have told us one thing although I truly believed something else. Follow your gut. Don't discount what people tell you but always do your homework and be his/her biggest advocate. The other thing I would say is things are constantly changing. If you are in a rough patch now that can change too so hang in there.

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