Playing is our Job!

IMG_2141Children learn and develop by exploring the world in which they live. From the beginning of life they explore using their senses. A young infant learns that crying brings comfort, a toddler learns that biting may get what they want, a preschooler learns about math through building with blocks and the possibilities are infinite! It is our role as parents to ensure that we have a loving nurturing environment that encourages and stimulates the child’s natural inquisitive nature.

It is our role as parent to provide quality learning rich environments. Parents need to have a sound understanding of young children’s developmental milestones. By understanding the milestones, we are able to provide developmentally appropriate activities. We must be genuinely kind and nurturing. This allows children to feel safe, loved, and allows children to take risks.

IMG_2182But sometimes we adults think we need to rush a child along. Because we know how important education is, we want our children to learn and so we set out to teach them as much as we can. Although this impulse is good in itself, sometimes we can actually get in the way of a child’s learning by trying too hard to teach them!

We don’t need to push children or cram information into their heads. We just need to ensure they have the opportunities to explore knowledge for themselves. We can expose them to a rich environment and then allow them to explore it freely.

Let’s step away and let the PLAY begin!


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.


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.


What to Do About Whining

boyWHINING! When asked, teachers place whining high on their list of behaviors they find frustrating. No doubt parents respond similarly to this behavior. Children whine because it works! That is, adults experience whining as being irritating and want it to stop, so they often give in quickly to a child’s source of whining. Whining is a behavior that can result in big payoffs. In other words, it’s a useful tool for obtaining what one wants. For example, this is a conversation I overheard while shopping this weekend.

Whining child: “I want a Beanie Boo!”
Parent: “Not today.”
Child: “But I want a Beanie Boo.”
Parent: “I just got you a Beanie Boo. You can have a Beanie Boo next time.”
Child: “But I really want a Beanie Boo THIS TIME.”
Frustrated parent: “No!” “I said no!” “Oh, alright here, you can have the Beanie Boo.” “Now stop whining!”

When a behavior produces the desired outcome, it’s a sure bet that we’ll see it again.

There are other reasons for whining as well. Sometimes a child may be tired, hungry or bored. Parents can get in front of these situations by planning activities before or after nap time, packing snacks and play materials such as coloring books or other activities when out and about. Remember, many challenging behaviors can be avoided by thinking ahead and planning.

Challenging behavior can be extinguished by teaching a new skill. Teaching a child to calm down by taking several deep breaths can give the child time to think about a better way to communicate a want or need. Verbally reward your child when you observe the desired behavior. This will serve as a reinforcement for the new behavior. Try not to respond to or give attention to the whining behavior. Let your child know that you are unable to communicate when he or she is whining. Be consistent. When the whining loses its power, it will eventually go away.

I do suspect, however, that many a Beanie Boo has been purchased as the direct result of a whining child.

Katherine Generaux,Community Inclusion Specialist, Partners In Learning

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.


14 Parenting Tips for 2014

At the beginning of each New Year, we begin to reflect on the year past and think about positive changes for the future.  These positive changes are often called our New Year resolutions.   The top five resolutions for this year include losing weight, getting fit, quitting smoking, get out of debt, and be less stressed.  Notice that being a better parent doesn’t even fall in the top five.   I propose that parents consider including some of these tips in 2014.

1.     Use the good neighbor policy – When your child makes a mistake; think about how you would handle it if it were your neighbor’s child.  Never discipline your child harsher than you would your neighbors, and remember a good dose of empathy goes a long way!

2.     Be consistent – When children are misbehaving, it is usually because it is working for them.  Think about why you go over the speed limit.  You may or may not get caught or get a ticket.   Inconsistency leads to misbehavior and mistrust.

3.     Have family meals together – Turn the television and phone off, go to the table and sit down as a family.  Family meal times are important for children to build a sense of security and family unit.  Family meals provide opportunities to find out about your child’s day.

4.     Limit screen time – Screen time includes the television, computer, tablets, and laptops.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation children 8-18 years old devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media in a typical day.  There are some good educational purposes to technology, but it is no substitute for creativity and play.  One hour or less a day is a good standard to adhere to.

5.     Get back to nature – Children need to spend time outdoors every single day.  Many schools have completely done away with outdoor time. Children who play outside are more physically active, more creative in their play, less aggressive and show better concentration (Burdette and Whitaker, 2005; Ginsburg et all.,2007))

6.     Begin early building a strong support system for your child and family – Support systems can be built through church, close friends with children, sports, etc.  As your children grow into teenagers, you will know their friends and families if you started building those relationships when they were young. 

7.     Strengthen your relationship with your children – Remember that being a parent is the most important job that you will ever have.  Take advantage of these early years to build a relationship with your child.  It will make your life a lot easier once they are teenagers and you will have someone to take care of you in your old age.

8.     Build a healthy relationship with the child’s other parent.  Have regular date nights; avoid arguing in front of your children.  If you are not with the other parent, be sure to NEVER talk negative about them in front of the child.

9.     Be present – There are so many distractions today and one of the biggest is our cell phone.  Have you ever had your child to ask you if you are listening?  That’s a sure sign that you need to put the cell phone down and be present in your child’s life.

100. Have fun – So often as parents, we get wrapped up in the day-to-day routines and forgot to have fun with our children.  Play, have fun, and laugh more!

11. Read more with your children and require them to read – Reading increases your child’s vocabulary, strengthens their literacy skills, and gives you an opportunity to bond with your child.  Instill a passion for reading in your child.   “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” – Emilie Buchwald

12. Be your child’s hero – Parents need to be the soft place for their children to land.  Can your children count on you to protect them, take up for them, encourage them, and save them from this cruel world?

13. Show your child you are crazy about them – Be the person that Bronfenbrenner describes, “Every child deserves at least one person who is really crazy about him or her.”

14. Make time for yourself!  A good friend of mine once told me that it would never be about me until I made it about me.  Make it about you sometimes.

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.

Cousins Are a Child’s First Friend

In childhood, friendships are often based on the sharing of toys, and the enjoyment received from performing activities together. These friendships are maintained through affection, sharing, and creative playtime. While sharing is difficult for children at this age, they are more likely to share with someone they consider to be a friend (Newman & Newman, 2012). If you are lucky enough to have a great relationship with your adult siblings then your children will surely reap the reward of being raised with cousins. Often, cousins are the first friendships that children develop with one another. I know when my oldest child was young that was the case, he was an only child for ten years. He attended child care and had friends there but it was nothing like the connection he had with his two older cousins. For the first seven years of his life they lived about eight hours away but that didn’t hamper the relationship that was built between the three of them.

When we would go to visit or they would come, I was not able to tell him until we were in the car on the way or they had actually arrived because all I would hear for weeks leading up to the visit is, “Are they here yet?” Once the three of them were together the house was filled with laughter, jokes, wrestling, messes, someone being pulled in a wagon tied to a bike with a rope from the garage. The trouble those three boys would get into was endless. Now that they are all older and adults they are just memories, fond memories for them to share when they get together at Christmas or birthdays.

My youngest child now has the excitement of cousin fun. Through our blended family she has gained numerous cousins when our extended family gathers there are typically anywhere from 10-13 children ages six through 22. Tons of fun to be had, there is never a quiet moment in the house. And with today’s technology, seeing cousins who live three to eight hours away is as simple as pressing a button on the iPad!  As children mature, they become less individualized and more aware of others. Establishing good friendships at a young age helps a child to be better acclimated in society later on in their life (Newman & Newman, 2012).

Not quite the brother, not quite the friend, but sometimes closer than a brother, and always better than friends, they are your kin, and your family, and you stick together. They are your cousins. They will fight for you, sneak out for late night parties with you; they are often your best friends. A cousin is a brother or sister you never had. Anonymous

Deborah Howell is the Assistant Director for Partners In Learning.

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.