Starting The New School Year Off On The Right Foot

The summer of 2013 is quickly coming to an end, and a new school year is about to begin.  New beginnings offer a wonderful opportunity for families to establish and implement new tools to support good family habits and academic success.

If you intend to make changes to last year’s way of managing the family’s daily routine or behavior expectations, a good strategy is to hold a family meeting.  You can open the meeting by pointing out one or more of the challenges that were faced during the previous year and ask for input.  For example, you could say, “I noticed that last year we were always scrambling to get out the door on time, and everyone seemed grumpy in the car on the way to school.  I wonder what we could do so that we don’t have to experience that daily unhappiness this year.”

You’ll be surprised to discover that even very young children can actively participate in problem-solving and offering ideas for a solution.  Though the adults are ultimately guiding children toward an appropriate solution, when a solution is determined, children tend to feel invested in the new behavior because they took part in developing the change.  For instance, deciding that getting up a half an hour earlier during school mornings might be the arrived at solution.  When resistance is offered later on, children can be reminded the “waking up earlier” rule was agreed upon by every member of the family.

During the family meeting, when changes have been agreed upon by every family member, the new family policy or rule should be written down and reviewed often.   Young children, in particular, have not yet developed the memory capacity we take of granted as adults, and a rule they may remember one day, might be forgotten the next day.  Post the amended routine changes where they are visible to everyone in the family, and invite children to embellish the borders of the document by drawing artwork around it.  This will further invest the child in the new routine. As a family, don’t forget to celebrate the successful transition to the new rule or routine.

When my children were growing up, we held family meetings, and they were usually awful, with someone inevitably stomping out of the room in a dramatic demonstration of theatrical talent.   At these meetings, though, it was more about two parents dictating new rules to children instead of collaborating solutions as a family.   Live and learn.

Katherine Generaux,Community Inclusion Specialist, Partners In Learning

Katherine Generaux serves as the center’s Community Inclusion Specialist. In that position she has been effective in modeling appropriate interactions with young children with special needs. Her ongoing presence in the classrooms modeling best practices for infants and toddler is resulting in additional experience while making a positive difference in early childhood programming. She is very aware of what is developmentally appropriate and engaging with the children. Her birth through kindergarten degree and experience are evident in her service to children and families.


The Social Factor Changing The Game For Parents of Children With Special Needs

Raising a child with special needs takes time, patience and resources. I often think about the resources parents had, or more accurately didn’t have 10 and 20 years ago. I think of my parents, who raised a child with special needs in the 70s and 80s when there were not the programs and support groups, websites and apps at their finger tips.

Today we have support groups, non-profits that focus on helping with advocacy, legal issues, and more, businesses geared toward special needs financial planning, special schools, schools with inclusion programs, online magazines, and of course social media.

Social media has done a number of things in the past several years to improve the support and information sharing for parents of children with special needs. There are more social platforms out there today than most of us would have ever imagined 10 years ago, two of the largest and most relevant to this discussion being Facebook and Pinterest.


Facebook, which remains the largest social network to date, has become common place in the lives of many families. What started for many as a way to catch up with old friends and share pictures of the kids with grandma has emerged into a means of daily communication and information sharing. Fan pages, public and private groups exist to show and provide support for causes of all kinds, children with special needs included.

Facebook has become a place for parents with children with special needs to share ideas and emotions, plan play dates, support each other when children are sick or having a rough time, as well as celebrate milestones together. After all, the video of your two-and-a-half-year-old taking his first step has very different meaning to ones friends and family than it does to a fellow mom or dad who has been in those same shoes with their child.

“It’s been life changing for me. Without Facebook this journey would be so much harder,” said Sara Weiss, who has a child with Down syndrome.

Lindsy Maners has a son with Down syndrome. “It also is a great, quick resource when I have a question whether medical, educational, behavioral.”

Facebook also allows parents with children with more rare diagnosis and medical conditions to network with more families with children with the same condition. A child with something rare might share that diagnosis with only one or two other children in Rowan County. Facebook allows parents to virtually meet, share ideas and information, and develop relationships with families around the world.


And then there is Pinterest, one of the fastest growing social networks to date. This social platform came on the scene in 2010 as a photo-sharing pinboard website used to create and manage theme-based image collections. It began as a network to share topics such as events, interests, and hobbies, but has grown into a visual idea sharing community where the sky might not even be the limit.

Today, moms have taken on Pinterest by storm, using it to share ideas, information and tricks of the trade. Therapists, teach and parents of children with special needs now have a world of information at their finger tips including educational ideas, therapy exercises and more.

Pinterest’s Mithya Srinivasan said she is constantly amazed and inspired by the creativity, compassion and love parents devote to their children, especially children with special needs. “We’re thrilled to hear stories about Pinterest playing a role in helping these families to discover new kid-friendly projects and recipe ideas, connect with other parents, and share great resources.”

Suzanne Perryman a blogger focusing on parenting a child with special needs says Pinterest is a great platform to get to know other parents better, research and share. “What Pinterest has done is help us connect on deeper levels and more interesting levels,” she said. “It allows us to know each other better. People you see more about your lifestyle. I think you get a whole picture.”

Perryman not only pins to share with others, but uses it as a tool for herself. “It’s my Google,” she said. “I use it as a research tool in may aspects of my life…I know the content I’ll find is based on people’s real life experiences.”

Here are just a few examples of boards focused on individuals with special needs:

Boards with special needs topics in general

Inspirational Quotes

Autism Awareness

Down syndrome Awareness

Therapy Activities

Spread the Word to End the Word Boards

As a parent I’m grateful for the resources and connections we have because of these virtual communities and look forward to what the future holds.

Jill Wagoner is Secretary of the Board of Directors at Partners In Learning and the parent of a son with Down syndrome.


Jill Wagoner is the mother of a child with 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 Parent, and Rowan Magazine. She is the Secretary of the Board of Directors at Partners In Learning.

Lessons Learned from Responsibility

“Responsibilities,’ we all have responsibilities,” in Mr. Johnson’s sweet voice. Growing up, as young as I can remember, I was always reminded that we all have responsibilities by Mr. Johnson who is my childhood best friend’s father. Mr. Johnson was a leader in the community I grew up in who had a powerful positive and motivational effect on hundreds of people’s lives. He taught in Franklin County Schools for countless years, three generations in my family. He was known for telling students that they have responsibilities and holding them accountable until it was instilled in them. This was passed down to my aunt (one of many) who taught me about the importance of knowing what my responsibilities are and then following through with them. It was as simple as knowing which bags of groceries were mine to get out of the car to take into the house to put away. I can still remember my aunt telling my twin sister and I, 20 years ago, to take bags into the house, as we walked from the car; she had a big smile on her face as she said in Mr. Johnson’s voice, “Responsibilities, we all have responsibilities.” She was so proud of us for helping and even to this day she still tells my sister and me how proud she is of our success in life. She planted a seed that she has watched grow.

Responsibilities are learned even as young as toddlers all the way through adulthood. Responsibility is something that we continue to learn in different stages of life. Teaching children responsibilities in the beginning stages from toddlerhood on up, such as picking up toys, daily routines, various chores etc., sets your child on a successful path. In the final analysis, the one quality that all successful people have . . . is the ability to take on responsibility. – Michael Korda

Teaching responsibility fosters personal qualities that will help children later in life to be a team player, gain self-respect, accountability, understand that there are consequences for actions, etc. Responsibility also helps teach them independence. The only way to master a skill is through practice, which teaches them self-reliance. Young children mimic their parents; this is the perfect time to teach them good habits that will ultimately instill practical life skills.

Being a mother of a seven and a three year old, I started them off just like I was taught growing up! They have daily chores that are done without being prompted and are eager to assist in the grocery store, load and unload the grocery cart, etc. One morning, I had to get 38 gallons of milk for the child development center and guess who helped me put it all in my car? Yes, that’s right, my three year old son!  We had several people to stop by and tell us how much of a helper he was and was shocked that he was able to do it. My son and I made a game of it and it was a breeze. Children need to know that you trust them; give them a chance. Some duties may not go as fast as you would like it to go but after all they have the opportunity to contribute to the family. When my daughter and son are interviewed for their first job, and the interviewer asks them to describe their character or asks them how their closest friend would describe them, one of the answers will be that they are a responsible person. Life is full of choices . . . Being responsible means being in charge of your choices and, thus, your life. – Unknown

Michelle Macon is the Program Coordinator and Family Support Advocate for Partners In Learning.


Michelle Macon has been with Partners In Learning since 2006 and serves as the Program Coordinator and Family Support Advocate. She holds an associate’s degree in early childhood development and a bachelor’s degree in birth through kindergarten education. She is a mother of two children and has experience working with infants and toddlers.

Taking Advantage of Everyday Moments

In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we often lose out on the quality bonding times and teachable moments we have with our children without even knowing it. If your house is anything like the average family home, it is almost as though a tornado crashes through every morning. You are rushing after your eight and 10 year olds, fussing at them to get their school stuff together, get their clothes on, eat their breakfast, brush their teeth, and tending to whatever else is thrown your way. All the while, you are changing your six-month-old daughter’s diaper, getting her dressed, feeding her breakfast and still desperately trying to at least shove a banana down your throat and get your hair brushed. Just thinking about all this makes me quite dizzy! With this being a way of life for you, it may not occur to you that not only are you setting this crazy tone for the rest of the day but you are truly missing out on opportunities for incredible bonding time and wonderful teachable moments with your children.

It is extremely important that we slow things down and take advantage of everyday moments. What exactly do I mean by everyday moments? Well…. These are the very moments that I mentioned above; the everyday care routines that we follow each day. Instead of rushing through these routines, embrace and utilize them! While the older children are getting dressed, make the most of the one-on-one time you have with your daughter while changing her diaper. This is a perfect opportunity to bond with her! You already have the beginnings of the physical closeness with her by just picking her up to put her on the changing table. Why not take it a step further and work on your trust and emotional bonds as well. Take the time to talk with her; tell her what you are doing with her each step of the way. By doing this, you are showing her the respect and attention that is crucial to attachment. This enables her to hear the tones of your voice, see your facial expressions and feel the warmth of your touch. At this moment she is not only forming that most important bond with you but she is also learning language, how to express herself and how to trust.

Also, make the time to sit down and eat breakfast as family. I know this sounds impossible, but this is another wonderful opportunity to bond and teach your children. Talk with your children about how they slept, what they have planned at school that day, or whatever they want to talk about. Be sure to be present in the moment while spending this time. Too often we talk at children and not with children. Allow your children to talk with you and engage yourself in their conversations. This shows them that you respect them and are interested in what they have to say. This helps to boost self-esteem, enhance vocabulary and create a form of trust.

These simple everyday routines do not have to be “simple everyday routines.” They can be the opportunities every day, of which we should take advantage, to form positive, respectful relationships with our children that will last forever.

Jeannie Morgan-Campola is a Board Member of Partners In Learning

Jeannie Morgan-Campola has been in the Early Childhood field for 25 years in which she held many different positions.  She began working as a part-time instructor for Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in the year 2000 and became a full-time instructor 6 years ago.  She was promoted to Program Chair of the Early Childhood and School Age Education Programs in the summer of 2012.  She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Individual and Family Studies: Applied Child Development, and two Master’s Degrees: one in Adult Education and Distance Learning and  the other in Early Childhood Education.

Everyone Needs Privacy, Even Your Child…

I can remember way back when I was a very little girl having a “junk” drawer. This was my special place, no one was allowed to open it but me. My mother never went in it, my sisters were told not to and Dad couldn’t have cared less about it. Many parents struggle with the need to protect their child while still respecting her right to privacy. When safety is paramount, however, a parent needs to learn how to give her child space within established bounds and without compromising trust. This seems trivial, but a child’s need and privilege for privacy is important and should start to be taught even at birth.

One may ask how you teach child privacy at birth. During a diaper change of course, this is a daily opportunity to begin teaching mutual respect and privacy. When you pick up your child let them know “I am picking you up, it is time to change your diaper. Here comes the wipe, it is cold. I am going to clean your bottom now.” This doesn’t seem like much and to some may even sound ridiculous but consider if it were you, wouldn’t you like to know what is going on with your body before it happens?

Showing respect for the privacy of your child at the earliest of ages will set the stage for the rest of their life. Allowing that “junk” drawer or box for all of a child’s special secret stuff will let them know that you respect their privacy, this in turn will teach them that you too have private spaces, places and times that NO CHILDREN ARE ALLOWED.

1. Teach your child that it is okay to say “no” to an adult, even you. Respect your young child’s right to privacy when she wants to use the bathroom by herself or go into a dressing room alone. Even a young child values modesty and privacy. Help your child to understand that parents, teachers and doctors should always ask permission before touching, examining or looking at her in a way that might make her feel uncomfortable.

2. Discourage your child from locking her bedroom door. Many children retreat to the comfort of their bedroom in order to be alone. Make a deal with your child that if the door is closed, no one should enter without first knocking.

3. Work to make your child feel safe. Children will often keep secrets if they feel their safety is threatened. Likewise, they are more likely to keep secrets if they feel that mom or dad might get mad. Explain to your child that secrets can be hurtful and damaging and that while you might not always like what she has to say, you are always available to listen. Also explaining that if you ever feel their safety is threatened by someone or something that you may have to break the privacy contract to keep them safe.

4. Once children reach the teen years there can be varying degrees of the amount of privacy a parent allows depending on the child. James Lehman, MSW says, Privacy is a Privilege, Not a Right If you have a teenager who meets her responsibilities, comes home on curfew, is where she says she’ll be when she said she’d be there, is hanging out with the people with whom she said she would be hanging out, and you have no reason to be suspicious about anything, I suggest you stay out of her room. And I think you should tell her that, too. You can say something like, “I’m not going to interfere with your privacy, because you’re doing so well. I have no reason not to trust you.” That way, she knows she’s being rewarded for her behavior—your lack of interference in her personal space is a direct result of her actions.

However, your kids should know that if they violate the trust and honesty, one of the things that’s going to change is that you are going to be watching them more carefully. And yes, that might mean going through their drawers or closet or looking through their email. But that’s the price they pay for being dishonest and untrustworthy. We all have to learn in life that losing someone’s trust is a very powerful thing. People get fired from their jobs because they’ve done something that violates their boss’s trust, like stolen something from work or used drugs or alcohol while on the job. Trust is not something that can be taken lightly, both inside your home and out. It’s not spying when you decide you have to take extra steps to keep your kids safe from what’s going on in the outside world and from their own poor decisions, especially if you have other children in the home.

Deborah Howell is the Assistant Director for Partners In Learning.


Deborah Howell is the Assistant Director of Partners In Learning. Her education includes an associate’s degree from Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in early childhood education and a bachelor’s degree from UNC Greensboro in human development and family studies with a concentration in birth-kindergarten. She also holds a master’s degree at UNCG. She also serves as a CBRS therapist for the center.