The Earlier the Better!

When I see older adults with special needs out in public, I often ask myself how their life might have been different if they had been able to access the early intervention services we have today.  Could they have lived independently, would their speech and social skills have been better, how would the intervention have changed the family, and many more questions come to mind?

IMG_6517This is also the case with children.  As the director of a child care center that provides inclusive classrooms and intervention, I have witnessed first hand how even a few years can make a huge difference!  When we get an infant in our program with special needs and our teachers have the opportunity to daily work with them and the child can learn from the other children it’s magical!  The child thrives and most of the time is able to go into a general education kindergarten classroom.  Many won’t need any additional remediation or services when they enter school.  You can imagine how much money that saves our taxpayers.

Partners In Learning also provides early intervention services in children’s homes.  This intervention is not only to work with the child but also to coach the family so that they can teach their child in their everyday routines.  Many of the children we serve age out of services even before they are three years old.    FP!jpeg

Even children as young as three and four are playing catch up when there has been no early identification or intervention.  I have witnessed this first hand in my line of work.  Often mothers will say to me, “Something seems off with my child” or “I think my child has a delay”, but the doctor or teacher says to wait.  I say don’t wait!  If your mommy gut says to be concerned, you need to be concerned.  Don’t take no for an answer!  Get a second opinion or a free screening through the local school system if you child is over three or through the Children’s Developmental Services Agency (CDSA) if your child is under three.

Your child’s future depends on the early intervention services he/she receives.  Actually, our communities, state, and nation depend on it as well.  Lets give our children with special needs the best possible start by providing quality early intervention!  The earlier the better!

Norma Honeycutt, Executive Director

Norma Honeycutt, Executive Director

Norma Honeycutt is the Executive Director of Partners In Learning Child Development & Family Resource Center. Norma is one of the states strongest advocates for children with special needs serving on boards and commissions including the North Carolina Child Care Commission, Rowan County NCPreK Advisory Committee, and Rowan County Local Interagency Coordinating Council. Norma is also a CBRS therapist and facilitates support groups, activities, and other programs for families of children with special needs.


Getting in the Groove of Packing Lunches

lunchBack to school time is a time of new experiences, expectations, and routines. When you have a child with special needs it can be a challenging transition, especially if your child is going to school for the first time or to a new school.

One of the areas that was new for our son this year was eating a packed lunch. This brings with it the need to open containers, eat new types of foods, and understand the new concept that there aren’t seconds, what’s in the lunch box is it. Here are some ideas we found helpful through this transition.

Practice, practice, practice: Like most things, children with special needs learn about new routines and expectations through practice. This summer we, his teachers, and his therapists all helped our son practice opening the lunch box and small containers. We also practice eating out of a lunch box at home on the weekends. Even with the summer over, you can still practice on the weekends. It’s not too late.

Select container that are easy: Even with practice, why put barriers in the way for your child? Select containers that are easier for them to open. For example we  use a slide plastic bag instead of one that has to be pulled apart. If your child has an occupational therapist they are a great resource for ideas.

Try out new foods first: Before sending something new to school for your child to eat, make sure they have tried it at home. We introduce new items on the weekends to see if he’ll like it. Keep in mind your child’s texture aversions when selecting new foods to try.

Get creative with ideas: It can be hard to come up with healthy lunch options your child will eat. Read online articles, talk to other parents, and think outside the box. My son loves eggs so we’re going to try egg salad. He didn’t like cold cuts on a sandwich, but when we tried them rolled up he did like them. I also talked to lots of other moms for ideas.

Make it fun: If your child likes a certain character select a lunch box, thermos or drink container with that character. It might make it more fun.

Communicate: Make sure there is someone who can tell you whether your child is eating his or her lunch. If your child is non or less verbal, he or she might not be able to tell you if he or she is eating lunch or if the left overs are being thrown away.

Best of luck in the lunchroom this school year.

Jill WagonerJill Wagoner is the mother of of two. Her oldest child has Down syndrome. She serves as an advocate, writer, speaker, fundraiser, and grant writer for organizations that support children with special needs. A former journalist and current marketer and public relations specialist, Jill has been published in many publications and blogs, including The Salisbury PostModern ParentSalisbury Life Magazine, and Rowan Magazine.

Living a Shy, Comfortable Life

ShainaHalloweenIt’s more than halfway through the summer, and boy have I learned a lot already.  The children we have at Partners In Learning’s “Full STEAM Ahead” summer camp, are beyond smart.  As the weeks quickly go by, the children are becoming more comfortable with their teachers and other campers.  The bond the staff and children have at PIL is like no other than what I have experienced.  Speaking for myself, I have always been shy and my comfort zone was my family.  I always had good reports throughout my grade levels, but as soon as I walked through the front door at my house I was my true self.  Back talked (under my breath), squinted my eyes thinking my mother couldn’t see me, TRIED to be manipulative, and basically being a kid.

Camp1The majority of the summer fun campers seem to be being their selves in the classroom, outside, and on field trips.  Some days the children are singing Michael Jackson tribute songs, dancing around the room, playing dress up, and using their imagination to its fullest.  But what about the child who sits back and watches everyone else? The shy, quiet kid?  An article online, “Encouraging a shy preschooler to Participate,” it gives tips on how to break a shy child out of their shell.  Within the second paragraph I began thinking, “that was me as a child.”  It says, “Often shy children hang back because they are afraid of doing things wrong.”  I would be the one to look away or look even harder at a question so the teacher wouldn’t call on me because I was terrified of saying the wrong answer in front of the whole class.  The educator should make every child secure enough to feel that saying the wrong answer out loud won’t make them look “not smart,” or “stupid.”  Because more than likely, another child was thinking the same thing they thought!

Camp2So how do you get the shy one to become more comfortable in a classroom?  As the article states, you should introduce the child to their setting first.  If possible, show them the classroom or introduce them to new friends before everyone gets there and it becomes overwhelming.  What if you aren’t able to get there in time before everyone gets there? Communication with teachers always helps.  My mother had to tell my sixth grade teacher I needed help meeting new friends because I was the new, shy kid and it happened the next day.  I started having classmates come up to me giving me their telephone number and including me in group activities.

Camp3“Expecting an introvert to be a social butterfly is unrealistic, but helping your child become more comfortable around others and giving him the necessary social skills to make friends and participate in activities will help him live a fuller, happier life,” Edwards writes.  Having that shy character trait will always stick with a child, but there are many ways to make them feel more comfortable and not be as shy.  Jobs, college, and pushing myself to be more open, has made me more comfortable with myself.  I have always lived a happy life, but today I live a happy, more outgoing (in my own way) life.



Shaina Freeze is the School-Age Coordinator for Partners In Learning.  She graduated from UNC Chartlotte in December 2012 with a BA in sociology and a minor in women’s studies.  For the past five years she has worked in a child care development center.

Summer Therapy Camp Offers Unique Opportunity to Children With Special Needs


Footprints In The Community just wrapped up their third annual Summer Therapy Camp, hosted at North Hills Christian School in Salisbury. The camp offers an inclusive setting for children with special needs as well as their typically developing peers, to receive summer therapies alongside a structured curriculum. This year, children had the opportunity to learn about caterpillars and airplanes!

wBTV2Campers learned about both caterpillars and gardens while reading “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” book. During our curriculum week, the children buddied up and visited each of four stations, including a physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and academic station. Activities at each area involved lessons about caterpillars, butterflies or foods that the caterpillar ate in the book. Children made and took home various art projects, including a coffee filter butterfly and a handmade canvass painting. The children also had the opportunity to visit Huffman’s peach farm, learning about how the farmers pick peaches from the trees, and were able to take home a bag full of delicious peaches!

During the second half of the camp, children learned about airplanes. We read the book, “Airplane Flight,” and the children enjoyed making toilet paper roll airplanes as well as moving their bodies around imitating an airplane while going through an obstacle course. We visited the Rowan County airport and were able to get inside of a real airplane! The kids also got to experience what it’s like inside of a real news helicopter. The WBTV news helicopter landed on the North Hills soccer field and allowed the children to explore the inside, manipulating the camera and pretending to interview their friends as if they were real-life reporters. We were even on the evening news!

WBTV1The summer camp has been hosted at North Hills for the past three years and field trips are made possible by a partnership with Partners In Learning which provides a bus and driver for each trip. The program is directed by Dr. Ashley Deaton with Footprints In The Community and One Step At A Time Therapy services. Each year, two groups of children ages 2-10 meet on Tuesday and Thursday mornings in the month of July. Curriculum topics vary by year; in past years we have learned about trains, animals, and bears. The camp is completely free to the families and offers so many wonderful opportunities that the children may not otherwise have. Many of these children do not receive therapies during the summer and benefit from the structure of the camp. The camp is beneficial to typically developing children as well; as many children do not have the opportunity to be in an inclusive environment alongside children with special needs and when buddied up their peer who may have a physical disability or a speech delay, they develop and increased appreciation and acceptance of individual differences.  They master skills by practicing and teaching others and many of these peer mentors end up aspiring to be teachers. Footprints In The Community holds various fundraisers throughout the year to raise money for the camp and they also rely on grants in addition to donations from local businesses and individuals for funding. If you would be interested in having your children attend the camp next year or if you would like to volunteer for next year’s camp, please visit

Katie Zink, Infant-Toddler Family Specialist

Katie Zink, Infant-Toddler Family Specialist


Katie Zink is a graduate of Catawba College and serves as a CBRS therapist for Partners In Learning. Prior to her role as a therapist, Katie served as a teacher beginning in 2009.  Working with children is her life’s passion.

Technology RULES!

Children using cell phones and tablets are increasing at a pace that parents can hardly keep up with.  As the director of a childcare center that cares for school-age children; I am seeing more and more of them being given technology to use, as they like.  Recently, I looked on one of the children’s ipads to see violent games.   Several of the children have Facebook pages and lied about their birthday so they could set it up.   One parent actually set it up for the child.  When I talked with her she stated that she monitored it.  I asked her how she could monitor what he saw on others pages and the chat.  Also, many of the games are played on line with others.  These games are breeding grounds for predators.

404768_4786660824033_2040929263_nMy grandson is getting ready to start middle school in the fall and I have decided to give him my old iPhone.  He will not have a cellular plan, but can use all of the features with Wi-Fi.  Protecting him from violence, predators, and his innocence is a big deal to me as it should be to any parent.  To this end, I decided I needed to put in the research to set limits and rules.

He will not be able to download applications, because I have password protected it.  Therefore, his parents can monitor the degree of violence.  There will be no Netflix for him to choose inappropriate shows.  His phone will not be able to download Facebook.  If he abuses his camera, I can block it and many other things.  You can also learn how to do all this and more at Apple Support.

IMG_5552I have seen the below rules often on Facebook and shared by many parents.  I wonder how many have actually ever used them.  I decided to review them and tweak them to meet the individual needs of my grandson.  I plan to type them up, laminate them, have a family meeting with him and his parents, and hang them on his refrigerator after he signs them.   This is little time to put in for a big payoff! The rules are as follows:

  1. I will always know the password.   While you live under my roof, there will be no privacy when it comes to the use of this phone.
    NEVER use Facetime without asking me first and NEVER ignore a call from me.
  2. Hand the phone to one of your parents promptly at ______ every school night & every weekend night at ______p.m. It will be shut off for the night and turned on again at 7:30 am.
  3. If you would not make a call or text to someone’s land line, wherein their parents may answer first, then do not call or text.   Listen to those instincts and respect other families like we would like to be respected.
    It does not go to school with you. Have a conversation with the people you text in person. It’s a life skill. *Half days, field trips and after school activities will require special consideration.
  4. If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Mow a lawn, babysit, and stash some birthday money. It will happen, you should be prepared.
  5. Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first or stay the heck out of the crossfire.
  6. Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.
  7. Do not text, email, or say anything to someone that you would not say out loud with their parents in the room. Censor yourself.
  8. No porn. Search the web for information you would openly share with me. If you have a question about anything, ask a person; preferably your parent.
  9. Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public. Especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being. You are not a rude person; do not allow the iPhone to change that.
  10. Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts. Don’t laugh. Someday you will be tempted to do this despite your high intelligence. It is risky and could ruin your teenage/college/adult life. It is always a bad idea. Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you. And it is hard to make anything of this magnitude disappear — including a bad reputation.
  11. Don’t take a zillion pictures and videos. There is no need to document everything. Live your experiences. They will be stored in your memory for eternity.
  12. Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision. It is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it. Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO — fear of missing out.
  13. Download music that is new or classic or different than the millions of your peers that listen to the same exact stuff. Your generation has access to music like never before in history. Take advantage of that gift. Use this gift to find Christian music.  Remember what goes in will come out in your behavior.
  14. Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Talk to a stranger. Wonder without goggling.
  15. You will mess up. Your parents will take away your phone. They will sit down and talk about it. You will start over again. You and us, we are always learning. I am on your team. We are in this together.  Click here for more information.
Norma Honeycutt, Executive Director

Norma Honeycutt, Executive Director

Norma Honeycutt is the Executive Director of Partners In Learning Child Development & Family Resource Center. Norma is one of the states strongest advocates for children with special needs serving on boards and commissions including the North Carolina Child Care Commission, Rowan County NCPreK Advisory Committee, and Rowan County Local Interagency Coordinating Council. Norma is also a CBRS therapist and facilitates support groups, activities, and other programs for families of children with special needs.