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.


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.

Learning to Self-Regulate Starts Early On

“I hate you!”  That’s what my granddaughter told her mother recently.  “You’re the worst Mom in the whole world, and I hate you.”  Hurtful?—Yes.   Disrespectful?—Absolutely, and both these points were addressed once my granddaughter was able to calm down from her highly, emotionally-unregulated state of mind.   The outburst was caused by a misunderstanding between my granddaughter, her classroom teacher and her mother.  Cecilia was supposed to go into the after-school program while her mother volunteered to work the “drive-line” during after-school pick up time.  Instead, Cecilia was directed to the drive line for pick-up as was her typical daily routine.  When her mother did not arrive, Cecilia remained in the drive-line alone and was then sent to wait in the office.  She became scared, yet held herself together until she was reunited with her mom.  When they got in the car, Cecilia, age seven, lost control of her emotions.

Self-regulation is a learning process.  Until a child has the ability to self-regulate, cognitive learning cannot take place.  Many parents do not realize this, believing instead that a child’s cognitive knowledge is the key to success for a child entering elementary school.  In reality, a child who enters kindergarten knowing how to count, write their name and recite the alphabet but is unable to follow directions, maintain composure and control his or her actions will probably not be successful academically.  Therefore, social-emotional development is AT LEAST as important as cognitive development.

Cecilia is an emotional child.  She has always been an emotional child.  Fortunately, she is very mature in many other ways and is able to self-regulate most of the time, though she is still learning and will continue to learn this skill throughout her childhood.  She will need to depend on the help and support of the adults around her to achieve this goal.

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.

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


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.