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.


Support Groups for Families of Children with Special Needs

Did you know that Partners In Learning offers Support Groups to parents and professionals in the community?

Imagine being able to meet face-to-face with people each month that are experiencing similar issues as you. Our support groups encourage you to meet new people and share advice with your peers. You have the opportunity to discuss how your children are coping with their latest challenges and offer solutions to others that have worked for you in the past. Wouldn’t it be helpful to share strategies for coping with the public school system and other legal situations? Knowing that you are not alone can be just as helpful as the information that we provide during each meeting.

For each month’s meeting, we provide either a speaker or a specific topic. Our most recent meeting involved the use of technology by children with special needs. We learned how to pick out age-appropriate applications, such as for your iPad or phone. Professionals shared their favorite Apps and we discussed the consequences that may arise from the use of technology with young children.

Other past meetings have involved a Disability Rights speaker discussing the legal rights of children with special needs. We usually have seasonal themed meetings, such as a Christmas dinner and visit with Santa as well as our annual trip to Patterson Farm’s strawberry patch.

Not only will these meetings allow you to feel less isolated, but you will gain a sense of empowerment and knowledge. You will feel more comfortable when coping with situations that involve your child with special needs. Through open, honest discussion, you will come to better understand what to expect from specific situations. And best of all, you will get useful advice while making new friends that can serve as support for your family.

We specifically offer Autism and Down Syndrome Support Groups, but any parent of a child with special needs is welcome to attend our events. Our support groups for families of children with special needs meet monthly, typically at Partners In Learning’s resource room. Most of the meetings include free dinner and childcare. Professional babysitters and our own teachers provide childcare for children whose parents are attending the meeting.

Partners In Learning always encourages parents and professionals to attend our support group meetings and workshops. Please call ahead to reserve your spot at one of our meetings and follow us online for upcoming events.

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.

Winning the Bedtime Battle

Well it is that time again…While many parents smile and cannot wait for school to begin, there are many who feel as if the battles have begun.  What battles you say?  The battle parents fight when they try to conform children to daily routines.

Routines are something most adults feel makes the world a much saner place.  We have set times to eat, sleep, work and then start all over again.  However, many parents struggle with maintaining a consistent sleep routine for their child.  Children fighting sleep and then consequently fighting getting up in the morning, causes despair in both parent and child.  All is not lost!  There are some very simple strategies parents can put in place that will help ease their child into a sleeping routine without the fuss.

Parents need to make sure to take charge of routines and set limits.  Parents sometimes defer to children to make decisions when parents still need to be in control.  Children want limits and want to feel secure knowing parents have nicely managed important aspects of their lives.

Children need to be in bed early enough so that when morning comes, there is little difficulty getting them out of bed.  Sometimes that means moving their bedtime 30 minutes earlier each week until children are able to rise and shine with little fuss. It is also important to keep bedtime consistent once the time has been established.  Life happens, so some days it may be nearly impossible to get to bed on time. However, this should be as infrequent as possible.

Don’t try to put your child to bed without allowing them time to wind down first.  It is difficult as adults to go from active to sleep.  Our minds work overtime and our bodies twist and turn.  Children are no different.  Give them an opportunity to calm themselves and download from the day.  Allowing them to engage in quiet activities help them to quiet their minds; activities like reading or listening to calming music helps.  But establishing this calming time needs to be an integral part of the child’s nightly routine.  The 4 B’s -bath, brushing teeth, books and bed is an important and predictable routine that should start about an hour before bedtime.

Parents can still give a child a lot of choices for bedtime that makes them feel they have a say in their nightly routine and it makes the nightly routine entertaining.  Give your child choices on how they want to move from bath to bed.  Would you like to walk backwards or forwards, do you want to hop or walk, how many stories, how many kisses?

Finally, create a comfortable sleep environment.  Remove the distracting electronics (TV, cell phones, games and gadgets) and replace them with soft huggable items.  And allow your child to self soothe and fall asleep on their own.  When we rest with children to help them fall asleep, or allow them to watch TV, they become dependent on that stimulus, so if they wake up during the night, they expect that same stimulus to be there.  Teaching them to fall asleep on their own is one of the greatest lessons in independence you can teach a child.

Although it may seem that getting your children to go to bed is a battle that must be fought, it doesn’t have to be if you establish predictable and fun bedtime routines.

Jeannie Morgan-Campola is a Board Member of Partners In Learning

Jeannie Morgan-Campola has been in the Early Childhood field for 25 years in which she held many different positions.  She began working as a part-time instructor for Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in the year 2000 and became a full-time instructor 6 years ago.  She was promoted to Program Chair of the Early Childhood and School Age Education Programs in the summer of 2012.  I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Individual and Family Studies: Applied Child Development, and two Master’s Degrees: one in Adult Education and Distance Learning and  the other in Early Childhood Education.

Starting The New School Year Off On The Right Foot

The summer of 2013 is quickly coming to an end, and a new school year is about to begin.  New beginnings offer a wonderful opportunity for families to establish and implement new tools to support good family habits and academic success.

If you intend to make changes to last year’s way of managing the family’s daily routine or behavior expectations, a good strategy is to hold a family meeting.  You can open the meeting by pointing out one or more of the challenges that were faced during the previous year and ask for input.  For example, you could say, “I noticed that last year we were always scrambling to get out the door on time, and everyone seemed grumpy in the car on the way to school.  I wonder what we could do so that we don’t have to experience that daily unhappiness this year.”

You’ll be surprised to discover that even very young children can actively participate in problem-solving and offering ideas for a solution.  Though the adults are ultimately guiding children toward an appropriate solution, when a solution is determined, children tend to feel invested in the new behavior because they took part in developing the change.  For instance, deciding that getting up a half an hour earlier during school mornings might be the arrived at solution.  When resistance is offered later on, children can be reminded the “waking up earlier” rule was agreed upon by every member of the family.

During the family meeting, when changes have been agreed upon by every family member, the new family policy or rule should be written down and reviewed often.   Young children, in particular, have not yet developed the memory capacity we take of granted as adults, and a rule they may remember one day, might be forgotten the next day.  Post the amended routine changes where they are visible to everyone in the family, and invite children to embellish the borders of the document by drawing artwork around it.  This will further invest the child in the new routine. As a family, don’t forget to celebrate the successful transition to the new rule or routine.

When my children were growing up, we held family meetings, and they were usually awful, with someone inevitably stomping out of the room in a dramatic demonstration of theatrical talent.   At these meetings, though, it was more about two parents dictating new rules to children instead of collaborating solutions as a family.   Live and learn.

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.

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.