I Never Thought My Child Would…

As the parent of a child with special needs, you are faced with the delays of your child, which sometimes makes it feel as thought certain things will never happen.

He’s never going to walk.

She’s never going to talk.

He’ll never be out of diapers.

Parents of children with special needs know all to well the long wait for milestones to occur. I was walking hand-in-hand through the parking lot at daycare with my son, who is four, the other day. As we walked it occurred to me that this really was a triumph. First of all there was a time I swore he’s never walk and at well past two he finally did. Then, for more than a year, getting him to walk holding your hand was an ordeal. It took 15 to 20 minutes every day to get from his classroom to the car. I had two options: give in and carry him or just keep trying day after day, week after week, month after miserable month. I took the latter route, which wasn’t much fun, but finally it paid off. Now, most of the time, we do what we call nice walking to the car.

As the parent of a child with special needs, it is always helpful to hear from other parents when the “never” finally happens, so here are some stories from other mothers of children with Down syndrome.

“Having a child with Down syndrome you never know what you are up against,” says Lisa Myers. “Kingston is taking speech therapy and he is able to communicate with those close to him, however, we have to translate for others. I couldn’t wait to hear that sweet voice say ‘I love you mommy.’ Now he says it all the time and includes a random ‘I miss you mommy.’”

Maureen Wallace agrees. She never thought her son would say Mom.
“He doesn’t. He says “Mum,” like we’re British. I love it! It took more than three years, but was so worth it.” When he gets mischievous at nap time removing this clothing and diaper for kicks, his simple get out of jail free card is to simply say, Mum. “All anger and frustration melted away immediately,” she admits.

Jenn Scott never thought her son would be able to control food on a spoon. Items like applesauce and yogurt were a challenged. He recently mastered this skill with much celebration from mom.  “Now we can give him some applesauce and not fear all of us being covered in it.”

Corey Coggins simply wanted to take her daughter Avery to the movies. “I never thought she would watch a full movie in a theater, seated, then be able to tell me the characters, parts of the movie and sing the songs. She did it and understood on her level. So much involved in all this.”

As parents of children with special needs we celebrate each other’s milestones because it helps us see the light at the end of the tunnel in front of us.

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 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, Salisbury Life and Rowan Magazine.

 

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The Developmentally Appropriate Classroom

The importance of Developmental Appropriate Practices (DAP) in early childhood classrooms cannot be overstated.  Early childhood in the education field is considered from birth through eight years old.  Young children learn through exploring their environment.  From the time a child is born the are exploring with the vocal cry’s, eyes by looking around, and taste by putting everything in their mouths.  It continues until they reach kindergarten where they explore through play and asking lost of questions.  Any parent can tell you they hear “why” constantly throughout the day.  This is that sense of wonder that a DAP classroom can foster.  A DAP classroom is one where the teacher understands the developmental needs of children this age and provides a classroom that fosters learning through play.   

A DAP classroom is one where children most often:

  • Lead … rather than  follow the teacher
  • Create … rather than duplicate
  • Move … rather than wait                                                                         
  • Make the lines … rather than color in the lines
  • Speak … rather than listen passively
  • Initiate … rather than imitate
  • Raise questions … rather than answer the teacher’s questions
  • Solve their own problems … rather than the teacher’s problems
  • Make art … rather than do crafts
  • Emphasize the process … rather than the product
  • Use authentic skills … rather than drill and practice
  • Make books … rather than fill in workbooks
  • Decide … rather than submit
  • Choose wisely … rather than being told
  • Make a plan … rather than follow the teacher’s plan
  • Try again … rather than fail

These are the skills that children will need to work in the 21st Century.  The teacher serves more as a facilitator than a teacher.  The classroom is arranged in activity areas where the child can engage in learning activities.  At Partners In Learning we understand this need and are excited about having a DAP Kindergarten classroom.

As a DAP Kindergarten classroom it will aim to provide young children with the highest quality education by the inclusion of accepted child development theory relating to learning, the acceptance that each child has individual traits and learning styles, the use of play as an educational tool and the understanding that cultures, communities and families influence the child’s development.  It will be 21st Century at it best!

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.

Keeping Skills Sharp Over Summer Break For Children With Special Needs

Keeping skills sharp over summer break from school is important for all children and especially children with special needs. For children age three and older, educational services and therapies go on hiatus during all breaks, the longest being summer. It is vital that parents find ways to keep skills sharp over these breaks so their children do not regress in developmental and educational skills.

First let me say that this all must be balanced. After all, it is summer and your child needs a break. It’s important to find a balance between time off and productive skill-building time.

Summer activity chart for keeping activities top of mind.

It’s important to keep developmental goals top of mind so that those summer weeks don’t go by before you realize it. Summer is a busy time with camps, vacations, trips to the pool and more. It doesn’t matter how you keep developmental progress top of mind, but rather that you do. This could be a notebook, copy of your child’s IEP posted on the frig, or a white board. We have a small chart in the kitchen with a note card for each activity related to our son’s IEP for next school year that we want to work on weekly this summer. Each time we do an activity together the note card moves from the “To do” pocket to the “Done” pocket. This a simple way to do each activity one time per week and keep track of what we have and have not done. This works for us. Find what works for you.

 

This little guy played with a fine motor water station at a recent picnic. Then he got IN the water station. Does he look like he’s doing “work?”

The second thing to remember is that when you are asking a child to work on developmental and educational goals over the summer (or any time really) the more fun you can make it the better the result. The less it feels like work, the more they will be motivated. And the more you can use mediums you child loves the more focus and progress you will see (in my experience.) Find ways to incorporate activities that increase skills into every day and fun activities. For example, during a summer picnic, set up a fine motor water play station. For the children, it’s just play, but all the dumping, squeezing, and scooping is great fine motor work. They’ll have so much fun they’ll forget it’s work.

 

Fine motor, educational and sensory activity combined and it’s fun.

It’s always great if your therapists and teachers can give you ideas for over the summer. If you have the chance ask them. Here are just a few ideas of activities for the summer months.

  • Fill a pool, bucket or large container with water and find simple toys to dump, strain, or squeeze (never leave a child unsupervised around water)
  • Use JELL-O mix and a small amount of water to paint with
  • Use an old baby wipe container for pushing different size object in and pulling them out such as socks.
  • Use music to work on goals like counting, letters, etc.
There are so many ideas out there that it’s hard to make a long list. The ideas will vary, depending the the age and ability of the child. Pinterest has lots of great sensory play ideas Pinterest also has tons of activities. Have a productive and fun summer.

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 who attends Partners In Learning. 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 Post, Modern Parent, and Rowan Magazine.

Does Your Child Have a Developmental Delay?

Have you noticed that your child is not growing or developing at the same pace as other kids? While all children are different, most of them develop along a similar progression. Children reach developmental milestones from the time they are infants. These milestones represent the age at which most children begin a certain skill, such as walking or talking. If your child seems behind in comparison to other kids, they will most likely catch up at their own speed, but it is best to be aware of delays so that you know when to contact a professional.

There are many areas of development of which to be aware. Gross motor skills involve walking, running, and moving large muscles. Fine motor skills involve feeding, picking up items with your hands, and getting dressed. Language skills involve both speaking and understanding what others are saying. Cognitive skills involve problem solving and memory. Finally, social and emotional skills involve sharing, interacting well with other people, and understanding other’s feelings.

While some children are delayed in one area, some may have difficulty with multiple areas. For example, an 18 month old may not be walking, is only saying “mama,” and does not feed him or herself would be considered to have multiple delays .

You can help your child’s overall development by playing with them on a daily basis. You can never play too much and you don’t need expensive toys for your child to learn. Read to them. Get your child on a routine. Be aware of developmental milestones and when to consult your pediatrician.

Here is a quick checklist for your young child to make sure they are on track with their development.

Newborn: Beginning to lift head, tolerates tummy time, and is reacting appropriately to sights and sounds.

Three month old: Smiling, beginning to babble, tracking objects moved in front of face, pushing up on arms, and beginning to grasp objects.

Four  to seven month old: Will babble and giggle with you, grasp objects, sit unassisted, and begin to eat solid foods.

Eight to 12 month old: Crawling, pulling up on furniture, cruising along furniture, drinking from a cup, eating finger foods, saying his first few words, and will use gestures such as pointing.

As your baby becomes a toddler, they will begin climbing stairs with your help, kicking balls, climbing on furniture, saying many words and short sentences, following simple directions, scribbling on paper, becoming more independent, playing appropriately with his peers, and learning to use the toilet. Between two and three years, your child will be using hundreds of words; playing make-believe games such as with baby dolls; identifying animals, colors, shapes, and foods; completing simple puzzles; and will assist in getting dressed and other self-help skills.

If you are concerned about your child’s development, first contact his or her pediatrician. They can refer you to local services and support. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to seek help for your child, the earlier the better. There are many people in the community who will help you. Service coordinators, therapists, teachers, everyone is educated and willing to help you and your child. In North Carolina, children are referred to the Children’s Developmental Services Agency. This agency will organize and simplify all of your child’s goals for reaching milestones and the services needed to do so.

Katie Zink, Infant-Toddler Family Specialist

Katie Zink is a CBRS therapist for Partners In Learning.

While I have had many roles at Partners In Learning since I began in 2009, I currently serve as an Infant-Toddler Family Specialist. My bachelor’s degree is in psychology, specialized in child development. I work with infants and toddlers in the community who have either developmental delays or an established condition, such as Autism or Down Syndrome. The one thing I want to express more than any other is how important playing with your children is. Your child learns best while they are playing and it is vital to encourage and foster various skills that your child gains from play activities. Play with your child, if only for a few minutes, every day!