Tagged "conversation with children"

Socialization at school

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on


Sometimes it is weird how you will look back on certain times in your life and see the struggles you had quite clearly.  But at the time, you are simply so in the moment that you don’t really realize just how tough it was.  I will use the example of how we handled the socialization at school.

When your child has special needs, their road in life is unique.  Filled with milestones that occur on their time frame.  One of the huge milestones in life is the biggest social scene called school, be it preschool or Kindergarten.

Elizabeth, as many know, has Sensory Processing Disorder or SPD and Global Dyspraxia.  Both conditions affect her ability to:

  • Talk,
  • Interact with peers,
  • Be comfortable in public situations.

So, how to begin?


When we entered Elizabeth into her first preschool, we made sure to inform them of her disorders, giving them examples of how Elizabeth might act when overwhelmed or frightened.  But what we did not do was work with Elizabeth on how to act or behave.  I think we were so darned proud of the fact that she was in the preschool and wanted to be there and was happy to be there, that we allowed the teachers and staff to help us learn the ways this thing called preschool worked.  We learned to work with the teachers and truly, the pressure was off here as she was still so young.

We began to see just how social Elizabeth was when she entered her Pre-K program.  Here things got a bit more serious as they did:

  • School work,

  • Gym class,

  • Participated in stations for learning,

  • Prepared them for entry into school.

I think this time was so fun for Elizabeth, she loved being with the other children, but her language held her back a great deal.  It was here that we began to really rely on the teachers to encourage interactions and friendships inside the classroom.  Again, it is important to remember that we told them all about Elizabeth which is something that can never not be done.  But we also found ourselves asking about these buddies and friendships.  It is hard to watch typical interactions taking place around you when your child is not capable of those things.  But I offer out, that sharing your thoughts and feelings with these teachers can help tremendously.

How to continue?


We started reading social stories to Elizabeth, started discussing them with Elizabeth. For children with special needs, it is the repetition and frequency of things that helps them process information.  So with that in mind, we read the stories often.

We would at times:

  • Adapt them to her situations at school,

  • Write ones to fit her needs,

  • Write funny ones to help make a point.

These stories are a wonderful springboard for a discussion (be it more one way than two way due to Elizabeth’s speech delays).  But the ideas and thoughts start to flow and that can never be a bad thing.

What to do next?


Sure I could mean you meeting up with a friend to vent, but in this case I mean a friend for your child. J Yes, as much as this may send a cold wash of fear over you to read, it is something that we did at an early time.  It was not easy, it was not relaxing, but Elizabeth was happy to have the time with a friend.  Sometimes it went so well and other times I was hyper-aware of how uncomfortable the whole situation was.

But we tried it again. And we talked about it after the time was done. And we talked some more. All of which helped Elizabeth grow.

How to continue?


The thing about social stories is that they are neat, tidy and everyone says everything just right. These are helpful and needed stories but I will say from vast personal experience, that never, not one time did something go just like a social story says it would.  There would always be some renegade person who would be in line at the store and instead of saying what the script said they would, they would say how pretty Elizabeth was or ask what grade she was in and then all bets were off as to the responses from there.

So as tough as those early socializations were, we learned that:

  • Talking through the experience helped Elizabeth learn for the next time.

  • Talking through what was good helped reinforce positive thoughts for the next time.

  • Talking through events helped me be able to share my feelings and thoughts with Elizabeth and helped her understand her feelings as well.

Talking, in my opinion (ask my family) has always been a good thing!  Never underestimate the positive things that can come from spending time together talking and sharing.

So how to conclude?


Socialization is one of those things that you are part of, that you have grown with, and that you can continue to make gains with.  If you think about it, we are all never done growing in social ways with how we wish to present ourselves in certain situations, when making a presentation or even how to handle a disagreement.  So our children are simply growing as well.  We need to be there to help them take the next step that others take automatically.

  • Use examples of everyday experiences to help them.

  • Encourage expressions of any emotion.

  • Praise them for trying.

  • Encourage them if they fail.

  • Let them know you believe in them, always.

I wish you all some great conversations be them, via communication boards, devices, full of short sentences or long beautiful ones … It all counts and it all matters.

-Michele Gianetti

Michele writes for TalkTools Blog every month about her experience caring for Elizabeth, her daughter with Sensory Processing Disorder and Dyspraxia. Follow her story since the beginning here.

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How we survive the holiday season

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year … Welcome to the holiday season!

When you have a child with special needs, many days go by and you don’t necessarily think about your child’s special needs in any extra fashion. Meaning you go about your life with its therapies, struggles and successes. Not really thinking, just doing.

But then there are times that the awareness of your child’s special needs will not only surface but take forefront in your mind. One of these times is the holiday season, as it is full of unique situations and stresses. Typically every one is a bit more stressed and we would all have to agree that even though the holidays are more than beautiful, how many times a day do you hear a stressed voice? Or see a frantic person? Or even, experience the joy of some holiday road rage over the last parking space? So it would figure that our special children feel the stress and changes too!

So many families with typically developing children will go to parties where it is loud, bright and crowded. Or to the movies, where it is loud and dark. Or to a family function with lots of hugs and talking. And we will think … Can we? Should we?

Others will go sled riding and we think: will she do it? Should we try it?

Even the choice of gifts can create such an awareness of the special needs of your child.  Each toy, even if age appropriate, needs to be thought through.

Will she try this? Touch this at all? Is it too loud? Too complicated?

These are just the few examples that popped into my head as I write this blog, there really are countless more. Some make your heart hurt, some make you want to cry and others make you proud when you realize just how far your child has come since last year.

Oh yes, the holidays are full of awareness!

So here's some advice:

Over the years, with some greatly successful and some really tough holiday seasons behind us, I have made up a mental list of how to approach this time of year.

How we survive the holiday season bpicture for Elizabeth post Dec. 2015

Remember your child is indeed that, a child, who needs the support of family and friends. So speak for them if they cannot.

          • Let those having the party know your child’s needs and how they “work”
          • Let family know what they can do and what to do if a meltdown occurs
          • Let friends know how they can help with your other children if needed

    Remember it is never wrong to advocate for your child!

    Remember that even the little successes can be celebrated:

    • If your child gets her picture taken this year but did not last year … Celebrate it!
    • If they could write their Santa letter this year … Celebrate it!
    • If they tolerated a loud party … Celebrate it!

      Early on in Elizabeth’s life, I made the mistake of trying to pretend that all was well with Elizabeth. Meaning denial overtook clear thinking. But I will tell you that being honest with others and asking for help will be a huge relief.

      Sensory Processing Disorder and Dyspraxia do not quit, they are part of our daughter forever. I used to look at Elizabeth and think: “What can I do to fix this?” But you know what? She does not need to be fixed because she is not broken. Special needs children are not broken. But they do need special things.

      What all special needs children need is:

      • to be understood

      • to be treated like a typically developing children and be offered the same chance at life’s experiences

      • to have needed supports in place

      • to be encouraged.

      These hold true in everyday life and even more so during these busy holiday times. So don’t be afraid to:

      • ask for a special consideration for your child

      • stay for a bit of the party and leave if needed

      • decline an invitation you know will be too much for them

      • explain why you cannot do two parties or events in one day

      We want our children to have the chance to enjoy this magical time and just like they are special in their needs in life, they will need some special considerations during the holiday time.

      Once you understand how your child “works”, you will be able to help them enjoy the season, the magic and the love of this busy time of year.

      -Michele Gianetti

      Michele writes for TalkTools Blog every month about her experience caring for Elizabeth, her daughter with Sensory Processing Disorder and Dyspraxia. Follow her story since the beginning here.

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      Learning to Behave in Public

      Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

      I think one of the hardest things to do when raising a child with special needs is to get the world to bend to them and their needs.  Trust me, the world will only bend so far and the rest of the distance will either get made up by the work you and your child do or at times the distance simply remains there and with a sad acknowledgement you realize you may have to try to close that distance sometime in the future.  Perhaps your child just was not ready quite yet to attempt that skill or task.

      I say the above because something that we have been working on with Elizabeth since she was three years old is how to act/behave in public.  Be it with peers or just if she and I are headed to the store for milk.  All those times are out in what I call public, even our backyard is “public” especially when a neighbor stops by to talk a bit. I remember dramatically pointing out the difference between “private” and ‘public” by going in and out of our front door about 57 times.  It was always such a challenge because with Elizabeth and her Dyspraxia, the processing of information from short term memory to long term memory is difficult.  So what you go over with her, the dos and the don’ts:

      • Please do not interrupt the person talking, wait your turn
      • Please try to make eye contact
      • Please try to answer ONLY the question asked (I will get back to this one later)
      • Please keep hands down, not in “high guard” (I will get back to this one later too)

      … can result in one of the four being remembered as you may hear her tell the neighbor that she had fun at the pool, but then she says she is a pretty girl who is 14 years old all the while with her hands in the air near her shoulders (high guard posture).  We see this when she is anxious or over-excited … Well, sure, all that she said is true.  At the time she WAS 14 and yes she IS beautiful but that was not the answer to the question asked.

      So yes, the struggle for us has been and truthfully, continues to be, the ability of Elizabeth to process what is being said in a conversation, to stay on the topic and to find the words and be able to say them in response, all in rapid succession.  This is a tall order for dyspraxic children especially since her Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) can produce enough anxiety to make any of the above steps – steps she has done when calm – undoable.  I also think it is a tall order for many neurotypical teenagers as well as the art of conversation is being lost under a sea of text messages (but perhaps that is a blog for another time).

      So, now that you know the struggle, you are probably asking what we have done so far.

      TalkTools | Elizabeth

      I will tell you the key player in our successes has been TALKING.

      We started talking to Elizabeth about social behavior long before she could even talk back.  Our original OT told me that starting young will make all the difference in the world … So starting young is what we did.

      When she was non-verbal, we used:

      • pictures with emotions on them to help her tell us how she felt in situations then we could talk about it
      • a wipe-off board to draw pictures with simple words
      • a reward system for behaviors we wanted to strengthen (we used chocolate when she was little, she is so much like her mother!)
      As she became verbal, we used:
      • longer sentences on the wipe off board
      • a more advanced emotions chart
      • we typed up a list of topics and interactions to practice with her (both positive and negative ones)
      • … and we started talking!
      As she became older and WAY more verbal, we took away the scripts and emotions and just kept talking to Elizabeth …:
      • before we go somewhere to help her anticipate what she will be encountering
      • before we go about things she can say to people, topics that are appropriate for conversation, topics not so appropriate for conversation
      • during the time we are there to help remind her of the things we talked about before
      • after we are back home.  Here is where we talk about the positives and successes and the things we will try to do differently next time.

      I find myself so much in the habit of the above steps that I do them without even thinking. But I do try to keep the talking in line with what would be considered typical for her age group.  Meaning, even though she has trouble with expressing all thoughts, she still feels them as any 18 year-old would.  So we try very hard to recognize and respect the age she is.

      These conversations be them before or after can elicit great words and feeling from this child.  I love the times when it is just me and Elizabeth talking.  I love getting the chance to hear what is inside her, her feelings and emotions and even how she thought the outing went. I am always so pleasantly surprised when she will say something like “Well. I thought I did a great job today, but I probably shouldn’t have told that man my age.  Right Mom?”

      So she knows, she gets it! But her disorders are tough and they show themselves so strongly some days and near to nothing on others.  But as with all special needs children, everyone is different.  In their needs, likes, dislikes, abilities and challenges.

      For us, we know how Elizabeth “works.”  As we have had 18 years of our journey.  But just because we know how she works does not mean that what we do now will work next month/year.  You always have to be ready to change and adjust what you are doing.  Be ready to re-evaluate and make new plans.  But the thing to take away is that ANY work you do will help your child when the world just won’t bend that last little bit for them and isn’t that what your goal has been all along?

      I would be happy to answer any further questions about what we did @ ibelieveinyoubook@hotmail.com

      I wish everyone a blessed month and as always … our journey continues.

      -Michele Gianetti

      Michele writes for TalkTools Blog every month about her experience caring for Elizabeth, her daughter with Sensory Processing Disorder and Dyspraxia. Follow her story since the beginning here.

      Read more →