Teaching Our Children to Be Includers

We have all read the beautiful story about a middle school child who walks into the lunchroom to sit by another student who is alone.  Maybe the child sitting alone has a disability, maybe not.  Maybe that child has unique quirks that are difficult to understand.  Maybe that child has a difficult home life or is battling an inner war we know nothing about.  Maybe not.  Maybe that child is just in need of a friend.

We grow up in categories and are lumped into groups….regular education, special education, speech delay, gifted and talented.  These groups stick with children for most of their school life. During a time of trying to figure out who they are, they are given titles to identify themselves. They look around for peers with a similar title and try to fit in.

We are firm believers that all children have gifts. There are children who can walk into a room and make everyone feel happy and wanted. Others can make a seed sprout into a plant with just dirt and water. While there are other children who understand math quickly or are talented in music. With the proper guidance, each of these kids will grow into happy, healthy adults. We must teach our children how to accept each other. The math whiz can be great friends with the farmer. Or they can decide not to be friends, but still recognize the importance of the other’s gift. No matter the gifts your child has, we need to model for and teach to our children how to accept each other for exactly who they are. We need to teach our children that their gifts are special and unique to them, but it does not take away from someone else’s gift. We are showing our children that there is enough for all of us; enough love, kindness, and happiness. Once we know this and teach it to our children they will begin to embrace who they are without labels. Some of these children will cross the barrier and sit with the kid who is sitting alone. These kids will continue to inspire all of us to be more compassionate.

 

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With Appreciation,

Christina and Wendy

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Flyer for Upcoming Holiday Session

Mindful Thinking for Social Expectations

Confident Solutions, LLC

We empower children, families, and schools through mindful connections.

For some students, obtaining and utilizing good social skills does not come naturally. They move through their environment having a difficult time communicating and understanding more than just direct language-based interactions. For example, good social skills include sharing space with others and learning to regulate one’s behavior to other peoples’ thoughts or expectations. For some students, these skills need to be taught.

We are offering a 4-week session beginning on November 13th. This session will focus on teaching techniques that will help reduce stress around the holidays and will provide tools to use based on the Social Thinking curriculum. Parents and caregivers will learn how to shift their thoughts and vocabulary while helping their child at home.

Your child does not need a diagnosis to attend. This class is designed for any child needing to learn how to “think” about thinking as well as understand more about the complex social world in which we live. While times of movement will be available, students must be able to sit in a room with a small group for one hour.

Parents will meet in a separate room and are required to attend each session so true integration can occur at home. We are also offering a corresponding sibling class during this time. To register, please visit Registration for Holiday Session  or email us confidentsolutions7@gmail.com

Groups are separated depending on age/grade. Group sizes will be kept small with no more than four to five children in each group.

Dates for the classes:

November 13th, November 20th, December 4th, December 11th

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We look forward to seeing you on November 13th!

With Appreciation,

Christina and Wendy

 

Guest Blogger on Mindful Meditation

We are fortunate to have a guest blogger provide information about the importance of mindful meditation.  Maria Hartemann will be teaching a short mindful meditation  at the December 4th social skills classes.  If you would like more information about the classes or how to register, please click here Registration for Holiday Session

 

There are countless studies these days that laud the benefits of meditation. From medical (lowering your blood pressure), to educational (increasing your ability to focus), meditation is now being acknowledged and recommended by experts in various fields.

When I first started meditating, one of the most significant differences that I noticed was the fact that I was finally able to calm my “monkey mind” and fall asleep at night in under an hour! That had been a serious issue for me for as along as I can remember (even as a child!). I was a night owl, not because I found myself to have an incredibly sharp mind in the late hours, but rather because I couldn’t seem to gain control over my thoughts! A night owl by default, I guess you would say. However, with continued practice, that hour became forty-five minutes, then thirty minutes, and down and down. These days, unless I have a pressing issue on my mind, I am usually asleep within ten minutes of hitting the pillow.

As if this wasn’t enough of a reason, I also have experimented with using meditation or conscious calming of my mind, to lower my blood pressure. Always one for conducting a good experiment, I have tested the “meditation can lower your blood pressure” theory in 2 ways. The first was at the doctor’s office. I can’t say that I love going to the doctor, so when I go, I must admit that I am not my most peaceful/best self. I get nervous and my blood pressure has been elevated on occasion during the initial exam. After having one questionable reading, I used a few breathing and centering techniques that are a part of my meditation practice. When they took my blood pressure a second time (yes, it was alarmingly high the first and warranted another reading), they were shocked to see how different the second reading was! To the point where the nurse asked if I had been nervous when I first came in 🙂 Ummmm, yes. The other method that I used to try quite often, was to go to the pharmacy area and use their armband to test myself. I would sit down, not nervous, just a regular person, take my blood pressure and then take it again while using centering and breathing. Even a slight decrease was consistent. Try it! It’s actually quite amazing.

Check out some of these links and see how schools have integrated “mindfulness” or meditation into their school days.

https://www.edutopia.org/stw-student-stress-meditation

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/01/should-schools-teach-kids-to-meditate/283229/ (this one is long and does talk about meditation/mindfulness in conjunction with yoga, but it has some great insights).

http://www.mindfulschools.org/about-mindfulness/research/

Meditation/mindfulness, whether it’s 3 breaths a day or 30 minutes a day, can be beneficial to you no matter your age. I look forward to meeting you at the December 4th social skills class to help teach you and your child how to do quick mindful meditations in any setting.

Maria Hartemann

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With Appreciation,

Christina and Wendy

Friday’s Inspiration

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With Appreciation,

Christina and Wendy

My Child’s Team Doesn’t Agree on a Decision-Now What?

First, never forget you are part of your child’s team. Who Is On Your Child’s Team? When you walk into an IEP meeting about your child, it may not always feel that way. Sometimes, it may seem like everyone else on the team has had conversations about their expectations for the meeting and you are feeling less than confident in your knowledge. If a draft IEP was created for your child, those prior conversations are very necessary. The only problem is that often, the parent is left out of these conversations. As the meeting progresses, you realize that you wanted a service, or goal, or accommodation that others on the team did not. In an ideal world, everyone on the team would give input and a consensus would be reached. A consensus is when, after hearing all of the information, everyone re-adjusts what they think is best for the child and everyone comes to an agreement.  Please know there are people and places where this occurs. Where every adult puts their agenda to the side and really considers what is best for the child. However, more often, parents call us letting us know that a decision was made and they feel they had no input. We have even heard parents say that the other members of the team skipped entire sections of discussing their child’s IEP. If a decision was made with you in the meeting and you do not agree with it, you have several options.

Advocacy- If you know you are walking into a situation and you feel like you will not be heard or that you will not understand the lingo, bring an advocate. Someone who can listen to what is being said and help you navigate the meeting. This person should never make your decisions for you, but instead guides you and explains in parent friendly language what is being said.

Facilitated IEP- You can request a third, neutral party come to an IEP meeting. The school will fill out paperwork and submit it the state. A new IEP meeting will be scheduled and the facilitator will make sure the child is considered and not adult agendas. http://ec.ncpublicschools.gov/parent-resources/dispute-resolution/facilitation

Formal Written Complaint- You have the right to file a formal written complaint with the Department of Public Instruction. They will notify the school that you have done so. The investigator will encourage the school to come to a signed agreement with you. They will also conduct an investigation of all your complaints. The investigator will review all documentation regarding the complaint, hold interviews with those involved  and could do a site visit. If the school is found non-compliant, a corrective action plan will be established. The school will be required to follow the corrective action plan or could face further sanctions. http://ec.ncpublicschools.gov/parent-resources/dispute-resolution/formal-written-complaints

Mediation- Anyone on the team can request mediation. A mediator will be assigned and will work to make sure everyone feels heard. They will work towards a written agreement on which everyone agrees. This is an informal meeting where everyone has the chance to be heard regarding the child’s education. http://ec.ncpublicschools.gov/parent-resources/dispute-resolution/mediation

Due Process-You also have the right to file Due Process. This will initiate a hearing based on your complaints and the resolution you would like to see. Both sides will be allowed to present evidence to an administrative law judge. More details, including a time line can be found here  http://ec.ncpublicschools.gov/parent-resources/dispute-resolution/due-process-hearings

If you do not agree with a decision being made and you decide to move forward with any of the formal due process options (mediation, formal written complaint, or due process) “stay put” is invoked. This means the decisions made prior to the point of complaint must be followed. For example, if the Team decided to change your child’s placement from regular education to a separate setting, and you disagreed and started a formal due process, then your child’s placement will continue to be “regular” education.

As you consider which approach is best for your child’s education, always try to keep the lines of communication open with your child’s school. The first avenue recommended is to have an open and honest discussion with your child’s educators. Sometimes, just feeling heard and hearing their thoughts and opinions is all that is necessary.  If you feel like you are not comfortable with the lingo, we recommend hiring an advocate to help you navigate the meeting.  We also recommend the book, “From Emotions to Advocacy” https://www.amazon.com/Wrightslaw-Emotions-Advocacy-Education-Survival/dp/1892320096/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1476899427&sr=8-1&keywords=from+emotions+to+advocacy

With Gratitude,

Wendy and Christina

 

 

 

Registration for Holiday Session

Registration is now open for our next session of our social skills groups.  The time around the holiday seasons can be stressful for children and families.  The focus of this session will be teaching children how to effectively communicate at home around family and utilize tools to help reduce stress.  As your child learns new vocabulary and skills, you will also learn more about teaching and reinforcing social skills at home to help support your child.  We are aware that siblings can sometimes feel confused, left out, or even frustrated.  This is why we are including a sibling class with this session so they have time for questions and develop their own “toolbox” of strategies that they can use at home as well.

Your child does not need a diagnosis to attend these classes. However, this class is designed for students with diagnoses such as Asperger Syndrome, ADHD/ADD, or any child needing to learn how to “think” about thinking as well as understand more about the complex social world in which we live.  While times of movement will be available, students must be able to sit in a room with a small group for one hour. If you have questions if your child would benefit from this session, please don’t hesitate to e-mail us at confidentsolutions7@gmail.com. We’d love to help answer any questions!

The dates and agenda for the classes are as follows:

November 13th: Children will learn tools how to effectively communicate at home and around extended family, friends, or school. They will learn how to get their mom/dad/caregiver’s attention when multiple people are around.  The focus of this class will be self-awareness and communication tools.

November 20th: Children will be learning how to start and continue a conversation with a relative/parent/caregiver whether they are talking on the phone or meeting together for the holidays.  They will learn skills to have a “peaceful” holiday and begin learning how to “catch” themselves doing something well.  The focus of this class will be self-awareness, self-monitoring, and communication tools.

December 4th:  All groups will be led for a short mindful meditation in learning how to center themselves and be able to utilize this tool as a way to reduce stress or anxiety.  Children will begin to recognize the first signs of  when they are feeling overwhelmed and when they need to utilize a tool or ask for help.  The focus of this class will be communication, self-awareness, and tools for reducing stress or anxiety.

December 11th: Children will learn how to set up a space for himself/herself at home that he/she can use when feeling overwhelmed or need a break.  The children will review how to communicate to parents/caregivers when they need help or use a tool.

For this session, there will be three groups that will meet.  A sibling group (which is optional), a parent group (required with the session), and your child registering for the social skills group (up to five children per group).

K-2 meets from 2:00-3:00

3rd-5th meets from 3:30-4:30

6th-8th meets from 5:00-6:00

The cost for the child and parent classes is $150.00.

The cost for the child, parent, and up to two siblings is $200.00.

All classes are held at 8401 Medical Plaza Drive, Suite 120, Charlotte, NC 28262.

To register, please fill out the attached registration form registration-for-holiday-session and e-mail it to us at confidentsolutions7@gmail.com.  Please be sure to indicate on the form whether you are signing up for the sibling portion as well.  Once we receive your registration form, we will e-mail you a PayPal link to reserve your spot in the class.  The classes will be kept small to benefit children and families with no more than five children for the main class.

 

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With Appreciation,

Christina and Wendy

 

What Schools Can’t Tell You In Meetings

When attending a meeting to discuss your child’s needs, there are a few phrases you should never hear. Below are just a few:

  1. ANY word regarding money. Never, never, never should an employee of the school say anything about what services can and can not be offered because of monetary concerns.  IEP Team members make decisions for a child based on the child’s need and the data to show that need.
  2. “We can’t test your child until we have tried RTI (or MTSS)”. This statement is false. Take a look at our blog What Can I Do if My Child is Struggling in School?
  3. “This meeting will only be an hour because (insert any reason here: the general education teacher has to leave, we have another meeting scheduled, etc).” The meeting should last as long as necessary to address the concerns of every member of the team.  Who Is On Your Child’s Team?
  4. “We aren’t going to add your statement to the DEC 5 because we don’t agree with you.” As a member of your child’s team, you have the right to add any statement regarding your child and the meeting, even if they don’t agree. The Importance of a DEC5
  5. “We can’t make that decision today.” At every meeting, there should be a person who has the authority to make decisions. This person is called the LEA representative. They should know and understand laws regarding special education, policies within the school and district, and have knowledge of the budget.
  6. “We don’t accept outside evaluations.”  In North Carolina, all evaluations must be considered by the IEP Team.  If you offer an outside evaluation documenting  your child’s needs, the Team needs to discuss it and see how and if it is is relevant to the over all data for your child.

These are just a few of the statements we have had parents tell us members of their child’s team have said. There are a few statements that we have experienced at IEP meetings for our own children. These statements are not shared with you to cause anger toward your child’s team, but instead for you to know where to establish boundaries with the team as you reach a consensus about what is in the best interest of your child.  When you have a question or concern, always start by going to your child’s case manager or EC teacher first.  If you are not able to get your question answered, you can then ask the EC Coordinator or Director next for your school or district.

NCDPI has an excellent website with information http://www.dpi.state.nc.us .Under “departments” click “exceptional children.”

Another fantastic resource for parents is the ECAC (Exceptional Children’s Assistance Center).  http://www.ecac-parentcenter.org

You are also always welcome to e-mail us with any questions at confidentsolutions7@gmail.com.

 

With Appreciation,

Wendy and Christina

 

 

 

 

Upcoming Holiday Session

We will be opening registration for our next social skills groups next week! This next session will be slightly different.  We will continue to have separate small groups, however, the focus of this session will be to begin teaching an understanding of social expectations around the holiday seasons as well as tools for coping with stress.  There will be more specific details about the sessions with the registration post.

The dates for the next session will be: November 13th, November 20th, December 4th, and December 11th.  There will be three groups meeting at a time: A sibling group  (optional), a parent group (required), and a group for your child learning specific social skills.  

Be sure to check our website next Monday with details about the classes and information on how to register.

With Appreciation,

Christina and Wendy

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Who Benefits From Social Skills Classes?

Every child, with his/her unique strengths,  learns in a different way. Some children excel at math, while others struggle. Some children learn to read with ease, while others find it to be frustrating and difficult. One child may learn the proper way to say /k/ while others need to be specifically taught place, manner, and voicing.  Social skills are no different.

Children who have difficulties understanding social situations often do not see the  “rules” on the playground. They are typically the children that have to “pull their clip”, “go below the line”, or get a letter or phone call home. Often times, these children need specific instruction to learn what their peers, parents, and teachers expect from them. To those of us who have never had trouble understanding social expectations, this may seem absurd.

What we know is every behavior happens for a reason. For example, one child hits another during recess. He/she may not intend to be mean but really is looking for a way to be part of the group.  Hitting has been a way this student has gotten a response in the past to get another  child’s attention. When we take the time to teach that child appropriate ways to enter and exit play with another  would help prevent him/her from hitting in the future. The child has now learned skills and has a “toolbox” to pull from instead of hitting.  Another example is for the child who consistently comes home with a “bad” report (clip pulling, red cards, etc.).  Why is this behavior happening and what skills need to be taught instead of “managed”? Usually the behavior happens because the child is receiving some type of feedback before, during, or after.  What would happen if we understood the behavior, taught them a new way to receive their feedback, and then offered positive reinforcement every single time we saw them do it?  When we help children learn these skills in a non-judgemental way, we begin to see an improvement in their behavior and an increase in self-awareness.

The process of teaching children how to think socially does not change behavior overnight. Instead, it is a slow and deep process that requires time and patience. It also requires a village. When a therapist, teacher, etc. is teaching a child social skills, it’s important to carry those skills into his/her other environments like school and home. Communication is key. Communicating with your child’s teacher and school and letting them know what he/she is learning and how they can help support your child during the school day is important. If you sign your child up for a social skills class, please ask how you can learn the vocabulary. Also ask how they communicate with your child’s teacher. When there is a lack of communication outside of the social skills group room,  then you will typically only see improvement within the social skill group but limited progress in other environments.   One sentence from the Social Thinking! curriculum really stood out to us.  It said “Generalization is not an endpoint; it is simply part of the journey.”   We need to make sure  the child has adults who support him/her on the journey in learning social skills.

With Appreciation,

Wendy and Christina

The Journey

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With Appreciation,

Christina and Wendy