Social Learning

Recently, we read an article where a physician was quoted as saying kids do “what they can.”  This is very true whether we’re talking about children utilizing good social skills, reading on their grade level, or learning math facts.  It’s not a child’s “fault” that they are not understanding or implementing good social skills naturally.  However, as adults, we tend to have those expectations when it comes to social skills and then try to manage those “behaviors.”

If a child is struggling  learning to read, we teach that child unique ways to learn maybe through phonics, or blending patterns. If a child is struggling with concepts in math, we offer ways of support such as tutoring and breaking down the concepts until they understand the steps. Social skills really are the same.  In school a student will typically have to pull a card, lose a buck or sit at the quiet table. Teachers and administrators report that a child is struggling understanding and utilizing good social skills but the actual skills are not being taught or supported.

Just like special strategies can be implemented to teach a child to read, there are curriculums and specialists who can teach your child social skills. Both types of teaching express the importance of having a strong support network for your child as well as practicing the skills that are being taught.  When we are teaching a child phonics, we would then expect and set up situations where they are practicing the phonic skill. Social skills are the same in that, as children are learning how to “think” about thinking, having a support network of parents/guardians and teachers to help them practice the skills is necessary.

Our social skills classes are called Mindful Thinking for Social Expectations.  Our classes run six-week sessions with each session having a unique focus.  If this is your first time joining a social skills group or if your child has specific “behaviors” that you are unsure how to teach, we recommend beginning with our self-awareness, self-monitoring, and self-control classes.  We currently are teaching a session on “play” which includes how to enter and engage in play, how to read nonverbal language, and beginning to understand other people have thoughts and perspectives.  We keep our class sizes small so the students have the ability to interact and practice the social skills they are learning. This also enables us to offer more individualized instruction.

We also believe empowering parents is important. In conjunction to the student class, we have a parent group that meets at the same time.  The parents are learning information on the importance of reinforcing and practicing the skills their child is learning.

We also offer a teacher letter each week so we can connect with your child’s teacher. We feel this is an important piece so he/she can help reinforce the skills your child is learning.

This is a slow and deep process.  The focus of our classes are not about “managing” behaviors but rather teaching skills that begins to create a shift for students and parents.  Once these skills are learned, the students will be empowered to problem solve social situations that were once difficult for them.

We welcome any questions you have! If you would like to talk with us more about our classes, please reach out to us at confidentsolutions7@gmail.com.

With Appreciation,

Christina and Wendy

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Friday’s Inspiration

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With Appreciation,

Christina and Wendy

Assume Positive Intent

Advocate-noun. One that supports or promotes the interests of another.

Last night we had a big reminder. Everyone is doing the best they can with what they know. As the school year progresses, we have to continue to remind ourselves that, typically, people don’t want to hurt or cause harm to others. Oh sure, when sitting in meetings, we sometimes run across those who are stubborn or can only think one way about a situation. However, we have found that their intent is not to cause harm to our children. All of our actions and reactions are based on  the story we tell ourselves about any given situation. Often times when others know our story and we try to understand their stories, our perspective shifts and we are able to compromise more easily.

Holding true to our mission, we view advocacy as helping the child.  Through that, we work on listening to both sides at meetings and bridging the gap between the school and the parent.  The focus remains on what is in the child’s best interest with what their current needs are.

Our hope is that school staff can see how lonely and overwhelming this process is for parents. Without meaning to, most schools have set up a us vs. you scenario. Teachers and administrators, when a parent walks in the door, welcome them. Invite them to sit next to you. Offer a hug or word of encouragement. During the meeting, be mindful of how you speak to the parents. Be careful not to talk down to or over their heads.Parents are the people on your team who have the most information about this child. If you feel you are becoming defensive, ask yourself why.

Our hope for the parent is they come in the meeting with an open heart. The teachers sitting around this table typically have  worked with many different types  of students. They have experience and knowledge of what’s typical at this developmental age and what is not. They know who your child is at school and in class in a way we, as parents can’t know. Honor their thoughts and feelings. Honor their expertise. When you begin to feel defensive, ask yourself why.

When feeling defensive, going back to what matters is important and that is the needs of the  child.  Not our adult agendas and stories. Putting those aside, we can focus on trying to see and understand the child’s story, their learning difficulties in school, and what he/she needs to “level the playing field” at school to have more successes.  There is always a uniqueness about every child that needs to be celebrated and honored.  We all need to  be the village surrounding the child.

 

With Appreciation,

Wendy and Christina

 

Middle Schoolers OTB (Outside The Box) Club

Please click here for the registration form registration-for-middle-school-otb-club

Middle school can be a challenging time socially.  It can be especially challenging understanding the “hidden” social rules, nonverbal language and all of the “grey” areas that exist.  Beginning in January, we will host a middle school hang out for teaching, learning, and practicing all of those grey areas in a fun environment.   The classes will be the second and fourth Friday of every month from 6:30-7:30 p.m.  Each class, of no more than ten, will be a diverse group of students.  The mixture of 6th-8th graders will be students who need to strengthen their overall social skills with kids who have strong social skills.  We feel it is important to be able to support this age range in more of a natural environment with peers so they can have help in bringing awareness and strengthen  self-monitoring skills to “grey” area situations.  For example, grey areas may consist of times such as losing a game, having someone being perceived as “cheating”, or knowing how to start and hold a conversation socially with a peer or group of peers.

The cost for each class is $20.00.  Upcoming dates are listed below. Registration will remain open unless a class becomes full.  Any full classes will be listed on our website. You may register ahead of time to reserve your child’s spot. You also have the option of registering the week of the class (as long as it is not full).

To register, please fill out at least one registration form found in the link above and e-mail it to us at confidentsolutions7@gmail.com.  We will send you a PayPal link to complete your registration. All classes are held at 9700 Research Dr., Suite 132, Charlotte, NC 28262.

Upcoming Dates:

January 13th

January 27th

February 10th

February 24th

March 10th

March 24th

We are excited about this particular group of classes as we help support our middle school children gain tools in being more successful socially in their natural environments! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to drop us a note at confidentsolutions7@hotmail.com.

 

With Appreciation,

Wendy and Christina

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Upcoming events 

 

 

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

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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The Journey

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With Appreciation,

Christina and Wendy

Executive Functioning Skills

Executive Functioning Skills are important in helping a student successfully navigate his or her school day.  So, what are they exactly  and how do they look within a classroom? Collectively, these skills are what helps a student regulate his/her own behavior.  Here is a breakdown of the skills: planning, organization, time management, working memory, and metacognition.   Let’s talk in detail about each one a little further.

Planning is what we use to decide what is important to focus on and what is not important to focus on.  This is what helps a student reach the completion of an assignment in school.  When a student is weak in this skill,  a teacher will frequently say that he/she is unable to complete classroom assignments independently.  He/she may possibly be working on a different task (such a drawing or writing) during math time.

Organization is shown when a student can easily locate all of his/her materials needed for an assignment.  For example, a student who is strong in this skill will be able to independently find the writing notebook, a pencil, collect a new graphic organizer, and overall be prepared for the assignment.

Time management is when a student shows they know how to judge how much time he/she needs to complete an assignment or a classroom project.  It’s typical to see a teacher help with this area during class by posting how much time the students have for an independent assignment or group work.  If a student is weak in this skill, you may see him/her struggling to pace the time to finish all parts of the assignment to completion.  When the time is up and the teacher transitions to the next subject on the classroom schedule, a child who is still working on the beginning of the last assignment would be showing a weakness in time management skills.

Working memory is how our brains hold information in our minds while performing a more difficult task.  We do have the ability here to “pull up” past learning experiences and apply them to a task or an assignment.  For example, we see this in the classroom when a student is asked to write a narrative.  While writing, the student is putting the idea down on paper while remembering to use punctuation, correct use of grammar, and spelling.  All of those tools are working together.

Metacognition is when a student has the ability to have a “bird’s eye view” of himself or herself.   When this skill is strong, a student would be able to observe how he/she is problem solving and even question himself/herself in how he/she did.

There are more executive functioning skills that we use when we face a new problem or want to achieve a goal. They are: response inhibition, emotional control, sustained attention, task initiation, flexibility, and goal directed persistence.

Response inhibition: This is basically the skill of thinking before you act.  When a student is able to “pause” and think before saying or doing something, than that student would be strong in this skill.

Emotional control:  This is when a student can manage his or her own emotions so he/she can complete a classroom task or assignment or successfully reach his/her own goal.

Sustained attention:  If a student has a strength in this skill, then he/she is able to attend to a task within the classroom even with distractions around him/her and feeling tired or bored.

Task initiation: This is when a student can successfully start an assignment without procrastination.  You may see a weakness in the classroom if, after the teacher has given directions to begin a task, a student is walking around looking for a pencil, sharpening the pencil, asking to go to the bathroom, talking to a peer, etc.

Flexibility: This skill involves a student being flexible in a change in the classroom routines, a mistake in his/her work, or any setback or change that may occur during their day.  A student who may show weaknesses in this skill would become rigid or upset if a change occurred suddenly during an assignment or in the schedule.

Goal directed persistence: This skill involves a student having the ability to follow through to finish a goal that he/she set for themselves or possibly by the teacher without  getting discouraged with a competing interest.

Honestly, we could talk for days on this topic.  🙂 When a student is weak in one of these skills, it affects his/her overall school day as well as at home.  It’s important, as parents and educators, to recognize where a child’s strengths and weaknesses are in relation to these skills so we may help support and strengthen these skills.  When we allow these skills to continue to be weak without any support,  it’s common to see an increased problem in school as the child grows and attends higher grades.  For example, “organization” in first grade may look like a child leaving behind a parent letter or forgetting to unpack his book bag at school (or when he comes home from school).  Leaving the skills to continuously be weak, in high school, “organization” will look like a messy book bag with a lot of difficulty finding assignments, turning in assignments, and forgetting about assignments. If these skills are strengthened over time, we will see a child who can manage time, projects, and maintain sustained attention. Additionally, once our children understand why they have trouble turning in assignments, keeping track of materials, or finishing activities then they can begin to work to change these behaviors to new behaviors with which they are happy. This enables students, parents, and teachers to partner together to teach the whole child.

If you would like to read more about executive functioning skills, we have a few recommendations.

Here are a couple of fantastic reads:

https://www.amazon.com/Executive-Skills-Children-Adolescents-Second/dp/1606235710/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1475534746&sr=8-1&keywords=executive+skills+in+children+and+adolescents

https://www.amazon.com/Smart-but-Scattered-Revolutionary-Executive/dp/1593854455/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1475534746&sr=8-2&keywords=executive+skills+in+children+and+adolescents

https://www.amazon.com/Coaching-Students-Executive-Practical-Intervention/dp/1462503756/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1475534746&sr=8-3&keywords=executive+skills+in+children+and+adolescents

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/brain-based-teaching-strategies-judy-willis

http://adayinourshoes.com/measurable-iep-goals-address-executive-functioning-deficits/

With Appreciation,

Christina and Wendy

How You Can Help Your Child at Home

Homework, extra curricular activities, dinner, family time, baths, stories, bedtime. Once your child gets home from school it is a whirlwind. How is it possible for it all to be done? Especially if you have more than one child?  We don’t have a magic solution. Some days, at our houses, our children eat less than healthy dinners and skip bath times. Sometimes we send an email to the teacher and let them know why homework didn’t get done. Other days, we are having a glass of wine while we read Goodnight Moon for the 100th time.

However, I have found a solution that I like. I have created a schedule for my children which has helped them when they get home from school.  I write it on a white board which makes it easy to add or take away things as I need to.  I start with putting my children’s initials at the top of the white board and the rest looks something like this:

H                                   M                                     D

  1. Unpack you book-bag
  2. Put your shoes and socks away
  3. Put your lunchbox in the sink
  4. Do your homework
  5. Pack your lunch
  6. Lay out your clothes

Each child places a check next to the sentence under their initial after they finish . They have tried to say they’ve completed something when they didn’t, so I always make sure to go back through and check behind them. 🙂

When my children know what to expect, they are happier. They don’t have to guess what my expectations are and I’m consistent on what needs to happen. This structure is also teaching independence  in my children which makes them feel good. Some days,  I am able to  allow my children to choose the order they complete their chores. This enables them to have some control over their schedule which helps them gain ownership. Other days, it may be important to do them in a certain  order (mainly because of an extra curricular activity) so I add a note at the top that says, “please do them in this order”.   I also make sure I add the activities  each kid has that evening. This has helped my kids know how much time they can take on each task which is teaching time management. Here is a sample sheet that you can download and tweak for your family:

schedule

Good luck with your after school routine!  We would love to hear what works for you too! Please drop us a note at confidentsolutions7@gmailcom.

With Appreciation,

Wendy