Special Needs Mini Conference

mini conference

Susan King, author of Optimism for Autism, will be returning to Partner’s In Learning’s Special Needs Mini-Conference as keynote speaker on May 3rd for an encore presentation. She is a wife and mother of four adult children and she will be sharing her journey as the mother of a young man with Autism. She will talk about the challenges and joys of raising a child with Autism.

The conference is a free event for both parents and teachers; child care credit will be given to teachers needing continuing education hours. The Arc of Rowan will provide free child care at Partners In Learning to participants attending the conference. This annual event is a wonderful networking opportunity for the early education and special needs community in our area. Local agencies will be available throughout the conference to share and discuss the services that they provide for individuals, families, professionals, and members of the community.

optimism for autismThis year’s breakout sessions promise to be captivating and will inspire parents and professionals with ideas and hope! You will leave the mini-conference ready to try (and make) new things, with knowledge on your child’s development, and excited to not only be your child’s parent, but their number one advocate!

Participants will be able to attend two breakout sessions. Topics included are (1) use Pinterest to boost your child’s development; (2) hear from parents who have been there and done that and who are willing to share their journeys; (3) making shoe box activities; (4) how to make, or find cheaply, toys and tools that encourage fine motor skills and sensory play; (5) learn from and put yourself in the shoes of a retired Rowan County schools special education teacher; (6) how to have a passion for advocacy; and (7) discipline tips and how to determine triggers of behavioral problems in order to intervene and correct behavior in children with and without special needs.

If any of these topics sounds interesting to you or if you wish to network with the early education and special needs community in our area, please join us for our Special Needs Mini-Conference. The conference will be held in the Ketner building on Catawba College’s campus on May 3rd, 2014. Registration begins at 8:00 a.m. If you need childcare, please drop your child off at Partners In Learning before arriving at Ketner for registration. For more information and to sign up for the mini-conference, please call Partners In Learning at (704) 639-9020. We look forward to seeing you there!

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.


Hugs… More than Just a Nice Gesture

After a nice big bear-hug, don’t you just feel a sense of calm and happiness?

Sometimes a hug from a family member, close friend, or coworker is what we need to get through the day. Hugs involve human touch as well as a deep pressure that causes our body to react chemically. Oftentimes these hugs work for our children also. But what about our friends with autism who tend to avoid close contact and affection with other people? The truth is they benefit from this deep muscular pressure also, possibly even more than you might think.

Children with autism experience multiple sensory-related issues that we are not used to in our own daily lives, including: hypersensitivity or under-sensitivity to noise, smells, lights, crowds, touch, and much more. While these children typically receive therapies, such as physical and occupational, sensory integration therapy is also being used to help children with autism. This type of therapy seeks to regulate a child’s sensory responses. Results of sensory integration techniques and similar activities involve lower anxiety levels, more focused attention, and even improved behavior.

A great example of sensory integration therapy is the use of weighted vests, or sensory-pressure vests. The way these vests work is essentially representative of a hug, a hug that is constant throughout the use of the vest. Children wear these vests, jackets, belts, or blankets during daily activities, such as playing, learning, eating, or sometimes during rest. The idea is that the pressure unconsciously relieves muscles and joints and allows the child to be more focused and calm.

We use the same idea with our newborn babies when we swaddle them; the pressure gives them a sense of comfort. These techniques have been used not only for children with autism, but also children with ADHD, other sensory integration disorders, as well as many other neurological disorders; the possibilities seems to be endless with this type of therapy.

Similar therapy techniques have also been used with adults who easily get distracted, are hyperactive, or have trouble with their concentration skills. People with Cerebral Palsy and Muscular Dystrophy also benefit from this weight-therapy.

Sensory integration and weight-therapy is so effective that it has also been said to benefit our furry friends. I recently watched a commercial which suggested that dogs benefit from a weighted vest in certain troublesome areas, such as: loud noises, separation anxiety, travel anxiety, crate training, problems barking, and hyperactivity. After further investigation on this product, the underlying principle is the same as what we use with sensory integration therapy. It works with everyone!

So the next time you see a friend looking upset or anxious, give them a nice bear-hug to help them relieve some of their stress!

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.