End of the School Year

kids1As the school year is coming to an end, the friendships, the cliques, dance parties, year-round sports, will now turn into new friendships at summer camp, field trips to the discovery place, swimming, and a whole lot of unforgettable memories.

Speaking for myself, I was always shy and had to have my mom walk me to the classroom door on the first day of school. Not knowing anyone in a room full of kids was not something I looked forward to. But that first day of school determines what friends you will gain, extra curricula activities and a big opening door for the next 180 days.

kids2As weeks have gone by, I’ve gained my new friends that make me feel comfortable to be around. I suppose this is how cliques came about. Finding out what sports you like to play or just being the type that likes to “get in the books,” happens during a school year. Each day a child grows into their own individual, independent, person as the countdown from one hundred eighty days left of school begins.

I always dreaded the last day of school and then at the same time just as excited for it to start my summer vacation. I’m sure you’re thinking, “dreading the last day of school?!” To me, it was leaving my friends and everything I’ve gotten adjusted to; to starting all over again in two months. School becomes a second home to children during the school year. When you get adjusted to a daily schedule, change isn’t easy.

To a lot of kids, summer means summer camp during the week. Summer camp opens many doors for children. For example, there is no other bond better than a summer camp family bond. This is my first year as a Summer Camp Coordinator for Partners in Learning. As a child I had my mother to entertain my brother and me for 65 days. She loved having play dates over and keeping us busy (kept her busy too!). Summer camp is just as rewarding. Planning all the field trips, themes for the weekly lesson plans, planning what to do to make this a memorable summer, is a wonderful challenge. I am excited about the end of the school year so that the summer fun can begin!

Shanna-FreezeShaina Freeze is the School Age Coordinator at Partners In Learning. She graduated from UNCC in December 2012 with a BA in Sociology and a minor in Women’s studies. She recently returned to Partners In Learning after having worked there two years while in school.


Go Say You’re Sorry

On a daily basis, we as parents and teachers, run into situations in which children are verbally arguing, physically fighting, or both! Oftentimes, this arguing leads to hitting, spitting, kicking, and even to biting.

After evaluating the entire situation, the adult and child work together as a team to determine who hurt who and why. We then tell the child that hurt the other child to say “sorry” to the other child and encourage them to share a friendly hug. Refusal to apologize sometimes creates a whole other argument between the children.

While we may assume that teaching children to apologize after hurting another child is a positive thing, there are some reasons we need to consider why we should NOT force children to say I’m sorry.

1)     Do children really understand what it means to say “sorry?” It is honestly just another word to them. We need to sit down and teach the meaning, “sorry” as a feeling, just like “sad” or “mad.”

2)     Everyone is entitled to their own feelings and they don’t necessarily HAVE to be sorry. There have been times where I have done things that I truly am not sorry for doing; children should have this right to decide their own feelings as well.

3)     We shouldn’t force children to say “sorry” because WE want them to be sorry. We need to encourage apologizing because the CHILD is truly sorry for their action.

4)     The feeling may not be justified. The child needs to understand that what they did was not a good choice and that their behavior was wrong. You can’t be sorry for a behavior that you don’t understand was wrong.

When dealing with situations and problems between children, we need to make sure to teach them how to solve those problems with words, not our hands (or feet, teeth, etc.) We need to teach that words have meaning and when you use a word with feeling behind it, you need to mean it!

We also need to keep in mind that words do not have magical powers and words are not what actually fixes the problem.

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.

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.