Tagged "Kindergarten"


Socialization at school

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

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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?

WITH THE TEACHERS

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?

WITH SOCIAL STORIES

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?

MEET UP WITH A FRIEND

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?

TALK, TALK, AND WHEN YOU ARE DONE … TALK MORE

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?

THEY CAN ACHIEVE

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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Elizabeth Finds the Right Fit for Her

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

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Something so unique about having a special needs child is that when most typical children are headed in one direction, you find yourself wondering if you should follow their lead, if it fits your child’s needs, or if you need to forge your own path, hope it fits your child’s needs and try to stand by your choices.

As you can see from our previous blog posts, our journey with Elizabeth has had quite the twist and turns, but we have arrived at a point in our journey that most parents get to and it is called  It Is Almost Time For Kindergarten.” Yes, as we have been so busy with Elizabeth and her disorders, time has ticked by until we have arrived at this point, this crossroad.

I can remember thinking that even at the age when most children would be happily picking out a backpack and headed to Kindergarten, we were looking at the beautiful child and thinking “Where is the next best step for her?”  We knew she would love the socialization of school, but her language was not strong enough to send her into the world and the school would be looking at her education goals based on that initial IEP test.  John and I reasoned that if we used the year to work harder on speech and language, continued our work with Mary and all we did at home, we could make great gains and we could revisit the school idea next year.

This WAS our plan, however, we found having a conversation with a mother who had a daughter in the Montessori school in our area.  Her words and feelings about the school sounded calm and encouraging.  We investigated it further and thought we should enroll Elizabeth.  Elizabeth went to see it with us and she was calmed by the feeling there, enjoyed watching the class work and seemed content.   So into the school she went.

Something to note about children with Global Dyspraxia is that they do not generally have a natural curiosity about things.  For example, they will NEVER pick up a toy and try to figure out how to dress it, move it or play with it.  You will be needing to show them the above,  repeatedly and break down those steps!   With that said, Montessori has a philosophy that the child will learn via there own drive, pace and they are encouraged to find areas to “learn and explore” on their own…hence the individual pace and calm feeling of the school.  Elizabeth’s inherent lack of curiosity due to her disorder and their inherent belief in education driven by individual curiosity did not blend well.   Truth be told, she did wonderfully there.  She sat in morning meetings, listened well, ate her lunch with little assistance, took the nice rest time they had after lunch and more.  So we were encouraged in all that was being shown by Elizabeth.  In fact, had it not been for the fact that Elizabeth liked to play/learn in only one area for a whole month, and we were kind of scared the year might wasted in terms of learning, we would have probably kept her there. But we knew we really could not let time slip by without her educational goals being met, so with heavy hearts we chose to leave the school.

As I said before our road has been full of twists and turns.  We decided that because Elizabeth needed more one on one learning, we could home-school her, all the while continuing with her speech and language therapy, her work with Mary, and for the socialization aspect we would see if we could arrange for her to attend her old preschool for a couple mornings a week.  The preschool said they would love to have her back, we found a young teacher who said she would be happy to tutor her, we turned a spare room into a school room and we then introduced Elizabeth to her new schedule.  One I will say she took to right away and did beautifully.

Something to note here is that Elizabeth has these pretty severe disorders…correct? Yet, she is one amazing child to meet and work with as many people as she has had to encounter in her few years on this earth, not to mention all the places we took her to, some that worked out, others that did not.  I venture to think that her life and challenges, changes and adjustments might just fell some, if not most, typical developing peers.   I offer this out because to this day, Elizabeth is so open to teachers, therapists and people and I cannot help but think her early years and experiences have given her this gift.

So now that we had a path, we could focus on the work we were doing with our therapies. We could do our follow up at home, Elizabeth had her social outlet and her one on one tutoring was going well.

For the therapy,  Mary had us working Elizabeth’s whole body, and core with certain exercise we could accomplish on a trapeze bar ( think bar from a playground set) attached to a beam in the basement, where she was to hang by her hands and lift and lower her legs and a scooter she could lie down on and use her arms to move it around the basement.  Mary also had us working on encouraging more thinking language from Elizabeth.  We were to read her a bit of a story and ask her questions like: “Who is the story about?” or “What do you think will happen next?”  This way she could work on comprehension and also get some good language in there as well. Truthfully, I found these therapies challenging to do with Elizabeth but seeing her try and accomplish them made me quite happy for all the hard work and efforts we put into them.

Clarity and enunciation have always been and to this day still are our challenge.  Dyspraxic children form habits so quickly…be them good or bad ones and some misarticulations come from bad habits formed as well as from the dyspraxia itself.   Mary had encouraged us to buy bubble blowers from TalkTools as well as this neat button on a string to use to work her lips and tongue more.  The button was placed between her teeth and lips and I tugged on the string and she kept her lips tight to keep the button in place.  It was hard work to do but we knew at this stage of the game it was time to try this.  Truly, I cannot imagine trying this therapy tool prior to this time in Elizabeth’s life when she was so severely affected by her SPD.  I am happy to say she did well with these new therapy changes.

When there is a success, be it big or small, it sort of fuels you to continue, to rise to the next challenge.  I can say that our Elizabeth has done that throughout her young life.

She started life as a beautiful baby and toddler, trapped by her disorders.  She is now this beautiful kindergarten aged child whose personality and abilities are ever emerging.  It is exciting to think of her future, believing she will continue to succeed…believing in her.

For a little bit we find ourselves able to rest and to take in all the good around us. A happy Elizabeth, therapies and school that fit her needs, and some much needed peace.

The 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.

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