Childhood Memories, Compliments of Dad

My daddy will be 78 on Saturday. Today it was my turn to take him to his radiation treatment for cancer. My sisters and I each spend one day per week giving Mom a break from caregiving duties and giving Dad a break from Mom’s nagging. Right now dad is in the chair with his head propped on his hand asleep resting from the treatment. On the way to the doctor we passed the house that we lived in when I was born up until I was in second grade. Dad said, “You remember that little brick house? All I can see is your face after the wreck you had on your tricycle.” I was two years old when I had that wreck and I remember it like it was yesterday.

We had gone on one of our many family bike rides, usually initiated by dad and we were on our way back to the house. I remember thinking I was going to go fast so I could beat everyone else and win!! I am just a tad bit competitive which obviously started at an early age. Any way I got to peddling real fast, tricycles of course do not have brakes, I was going so fast that my feet flew off the pedals and I lost control hitting the curb full force with my front wheel and it sent me whirling over the handle bars landing cheek first on the curb.

So my point was not to tell the story of the accident, but to recollect that seeing a house or hearing a song or something as simple as a smell can take you back to another time and the memories, good or bad associated with the trigger. When I look at the house that is where I recall sitting on the curb waiting on dad to get home from work. He would round the corner every day at 5:30, we would jump up and sometimes I would get to sit on his lap and steer the car into the driveway.

At the time our street had bushes and trees directly on the other side of the road and there was very little traffic. Dad would say, “Ok girls, who wants to go hit some tennis balls?” My sisters and I would jump up and we would go into the road and hit tennis balls back and forth losing more to those bushes than actually hitting but it was good family fun for us while Mama was inside cooking dinner.

While most of my childhood memories involve my mother, mainly because she only worked part time when I was little. I have many fond memories of my times with dad. I am the baby of the family; my sisters are six and eight years older than me. Therefore during this time when living in the little brick house they were pre-teen ages and didn’t have much to do with dad other than packing his lunch for work each day while rolling their eyes and complaining.

I was the lucky one because when he would still tuck me into bed I could always get him to tell me a story. Not a story out of a book either a genuine made up bedtime story with me under the covers drifting off to sleep and him sitting on the edge of the bed. They all started very similarly with, once upon a time there was a little girl named Deborah and she had a kitten and one day… from there the story varied but I never tired of hearing about Deborah and her kitten.

As a professional in the Early Childhood Education field I know the importance of dad’s being active in their children’s life. Most feel like it is more important for men to be active in their son’s life but as a daughter with only sisters I see what the effects of being raised by a positive male role model are for us.

We have all ended up with men who are very similar in nature to dad. They don’t raise their voice or their hands to us. They are family men who see providing for and protecting their families as important. They are very hands on dads, who are actively involved with their children and raising another generation of responsible adults.

So for all you dads out there, get out and make memories with your children. One day you may need to depend on them to care for you, if you have done your job right your child will care for you at the same level of quality that you did for them.

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.


Busy Bee Moms

Do you buzz around every day of the week and still have a mile long list of stuff that still needs to be done? Welcome to the Busy Bee Moms club! You are not alone. How do you go about your day to day motherly duties, not to mention being a wife, and working, and feel a since of fulfillment?

More than 78 percent of women also feel they work a “second shift” when it comes to their daily life responsibilities, according to findings from the 2013 Work/Life Balance Survey conducted by Maid Brigade. More than 50 years since Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique inspired women with the idea that they could hold a career, be wonderful mothers and wives, have a fulfilling social life, and take care of their daily home lives—women are still struggling to find work-life balance and equality.

So looking at the bare minimum, is it imaginable for moms to simplify their frenzied days and actually enjoy a good quality of life, instead of feeling like you are on call or on the go every minute of the day and night? It is a daily challenge, however it is possible. Take everything one bite at a time. Organize your day into manageable time frames and celebrate little successes to gain a since of fulfillment.

Find ways to maximize your time such as making a list and prioritize tasks so you don’t get overwhelmed. Use down time, ex. while waiting for your prescription to be filled, make a grocery list, clean out your wallet, talk to the kids about their day etc. Down time is when you can get little things done that will alleviate your work load. Make time for yourself. We often times come “last” on the list of priorities, but if we don’t take care of ourselves then we can’t take care of our families effectively. Something I work into my busy schedule is exercise after work. I run for at least 30 minutes before I pick the kids up from school. This gives me the energy and drive I need to start my second shift job- motherhood without bringing the stress levels of my workday into motherhood. “Being a full-time mother is one of the highest salaried jobs… since the payment is pure love. ” -Mildred B. Vermont

What small changes can you make starting today to help you gain fulfillment at the end of the day? Yesterday ended at midnight, today is a new day. So set attainable tasks in order to feel accomplished in all areas of your life. “Never get to busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” -Rev. Run

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.

Freeing A Child’s Potential

Last week I had the pleasure seeing a past student of mine.  Blair Streater walked into my classroom seventeen years ago as a cute little four year old.   I can’t say that I remember every student that I have ever taught, but there are those that stand out.  One of my first memories of Blair was meeting with her mother who was diligent in making sure that our program met her child’s educational needs.  She asked all the right questions including one that took me by surprise.  She asked if we had any other black children.  I had never been asked this and had to honestly tell her that we didn’t have any.   This was not unheard of in our small town seventeen years ago. I went on to reassure her that we would love to have Blair and she would be treated no differently from the other children.

Thankfully, Blair’s mother entrusted our center and gave me the privilege of teaching her.  Not only was she a very bright student, but she was a well-rounded great child.  I could see leadership skills in her when she would try to assist the other children.  I fell in love with this little girl and her family.  We shared many fun moments outside of the classroom when I was allowed to take her home to play.

So, this week was even more exciting to me when I learned that Blair was attending Princeton University studying to become a surgeon.  Being one of her first teachers; this didn’t come as a surprise to me.  I have always known that education doesn’t begin in kindergarten; it begins in those early years.  Blair was a sponge ready to learn.   Her mother explored all of her options and choose the best early care and education for her child.  Her mom did her due diligence, as I am sure she has done Blair’s entire life.

As a teacher, I was blessed to have a small part in this wonderful women’s life.  I thank her mother for trusting me to care for and educate Blair during that important fourth year of her life.  Being an early childhood educator is a unique profession and has been my life calling.  Seeing a student that has succeeded and you know you have a small part in that is very rewarding!

“Free the child’s potential, and you will transform him into the world.” - Maria Montessori


There’s An App For That

There are mobile applications for just about everything these days. From convienece and productivity, to games and teaching tools, parent use apps all day long.

Apps geared toward children with special needs have exploded over the past several years. From apps that turn a tablet into an augmentative communication device for speech, to ones specifically tailored to children with a specific diagnosis, more and more companies are gearing their products toward this audience.

Here are some app recomedations from area therapists and parents of children with special needs.

From the Professionals 

Norma Honeycutt, executive director of Partners In Learning, recommends Twinkly Twinkle Little Star interactive sing along app. This app is a collection of intuitive and educational games, including the a vivid interactive and high quality production of the beloved song. “It is my favorite because it is so simple. Most children learn through music. This is usually the first song that the children I work with learn. When the star is touched the it moves and when the owl is touched it hoots. There is also a peek-a-boo game. This is a simple first opportunity for children to experience cause and effect.”

Another favorite of hers is Cookie Maker, an app that allows children to virtually mix, cook and decorate a cookie. “It is one of my favorites because it makes the child go through steps to get a final product, a cookie. This teaches sequencing and problem solving.”

Katie Zink, CBRS Therapist for Partners In Learning, recommends Dexteria and Dexteria Jr. This app has won numerous awards and is a set of therapeutic hand exercises (not games) to improve fine motor skills and handwriting readiness. “They both focus on fine motor skills, such as finger isolation, pinching, and tracing. I also use these games to encourage speech, such as “When you pinch the pepper, say ‘POP.’”

She also uses SoundingBoard to turn a tablet or phone into an augmentative communication device. “This allows the user to create a communication board with pictures and verbal words that the child can then pick from to make choices throughout their daily routines.”

Zink also uses Mr. Potato Head during her therapy sessions with young children. This app is a game Zink uses during therapy to work on the childrens’ goals. “It is my new favorite with all of my toddlers,” she said. “They can tell me which body part they want to put on first and where they want Mr. Potato Head to ‘visit’ next. This one also works on fine motor and finger isolation when they move their finger to place the parts in the correct holes.”

Dr. Ashley Deaton, Occupational Therapist ad Co-owner, One Step At A Time Therapy Services, agrees with Zink that Dexteria provides several good fine motor activities for pinching objects and tracing.

She recommends My Play Home and My Play Store. She says these are great apps for real world simulation that can be used as modeling for every day routines and behaviors. “For example, you can pick out and put the clothes on the family members, give them a bath, take them outside to jump on the trampoline, or get food for them out of the refrigerator. With My Play Store, you can go to an ice cream shop and scoop ice cream or you can go to the market and buy bananas and apples and feed them to the family members.”

Deaton also recommends Letter School as a fun, interactive app for learning to write letters. This app also has won numerous awards and is described as an intuitive game to learn all about letters and numbers: writing, counting, phonics and more.

From the Front Line – Mom’s Choice

One of my new favorites is Special Words.  The app was created by Down Syndrome Education International, an organization that work with parents and teachers worldwide to improve educational outcomes for children with Down syndrome. The app teaches children to recognize written and spoken words, and encourages their speech development, using pictures and sounds. It’s a great app because it’s backed by research and because it is set up to be motivational, clapping for the child after each round of success.

Another family favorite is Cookie Doodle. An occupational therapist reccomended this to us as an app for following directions and fine motor. Our son enjoys creating virtual cookies, while engaging in speech, fine motor and multi-step direction following skills.

A great pre-school app we also us is Monkey Preschool Lunchbox. The number one preschool game in the iTunes app store, this app offers seven fun educational games for preschoolers about colors, letters, counting, shapes, sizes, matching, and differences. Our son loves the games and making sounds along with the monkey in the app.

Lindsy Maners, mother of a son with Down syndrome, reccommends Articulate for a speech app. “You can program it for exactly what your child needs to work on,” she said. She added that it allows for grouping by letters or sounds and focus and also group by working on beginning, middle, endings. It tracks progress each time as well.

Another mom of a child with special needs, Emily Henry uses Alphabet Aquarium School Adventure. This app provides the opportunity to learn letters through four fun games. “It is great for fine motor and letter identification.

She also recommends Toddler Teasers. This company offers several apps. Henry uses these for teaching shapes. “He knows all of his shapes now he still likes to play it. It also is good for fine motor and matching.”

With the new apps coming out all the time, by the time you try these there will be some new ones to try.

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.

Behavior and Development

It is impossible to have a discussion about children and challenging behavior without considering how development factors into the equation. Let’s take your typical two-year-old for example. Everyone knows that the universal mantra for people at this stage in human development is the word “No”. No, no, no, and no, even when they mean yes. Before you begin to wonder if your child is on a path toward a diagnosis of Oppositional Deviance Disorder, you need to understand the reason why we act this way. At about the age of two, sometimes a few months earlier and sometimes a few months later, children begin to see themselves as human beings separate from the person or persons who they have consistently relied on for comfort and safety. There is a conflict going on at this stage. Toddlers know they need and rely on their family to meet their many needs, but at the same time, they feel driven to explore their world and declare themselves as individuals with their own ideas about how their daily experiences should go. It’s a constant tug-of-war in the minds of our two-year-olds, and this is one reason why they are often cranky.

Another reason why people this age are so emotional can be explained by brain development. From birth through the preschool years, children are building neuron brain connections rapidly, especially in that part of the part of the brain where cognitive learning occurs. While this process is taking place, young children are still relying heavily on that part of the brain where we experience emotions.

I often think about how these first attempts at initiating independence mirror that notable adolescent angst teenagers experience as they attempt to assert total independence from their parents. Perhaps you have experiences life with a two-year-old but have not yet experienced the joy of living with a teenager. Well, good luck! Just remember, though, that this is how humans develop. After all, achieving independence IS the ultimate goal parents are seeking for their children.

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.