Mondays with Grace – Helping Your Neurotypical Child Cope

Check out this awesome post by Autism Awareness about assisting your neurotypical child when it times to cope!

How to Help Your Neurotypical Child Cope

Oftentimes, when someone is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the focus completely shifts from worrying about both kids to putting a lot more focus on the child with ASD. And of course, the child with ASD needs more attention. But when children are young and don’t fully understand what is going on, the transition of your parents putting more focus on your sibling can be confusing and difficult.

Here are some things you can do to help your other children understand what’s going on and how to support them.

Teach them about the diagnosis

Young children may not understand completely, but explain to them what the diagnosis is and let them know that because their sibling has special needs,  they will have to tend to them a little bit more.

Reassure them

Siblings of ASD children typically have a lot of questions and are confused. They will feel embarrassed and sometimes like a burden. They usually want to know:

Will I get to spend time with mom and dad? 

Why do I always have to do the chores but my sibling doesn’t? 

How do I explain my siblings behavior to my friends?

It’s important to answer their questions and be patient with them, while also understanding that they may feel angry at their sibling for getting more attention. Make sure they know that you’re still there for them, and constantly check in with how they’re feeling.

Remember: They will be there for their sibling

Those who have siblings with autism are much more likely to be sensitive to those with special needs, and stick up for them. They are just looking from attention from their parents to feel more safe, but they will always protect their sibling. You don’t need to push them to be supportive.

Overall, being the sibling of someone with ASD can leave the child feeling like they need to be perfect and lead to feelings of resentment. As a parent, always check in with your child, and make sure they know they are loved too.

 

https://www.myautism.org/news-features/how-to-help-your-neurotypical-child-cope

Monday’s with Grace – Teaching During A Pandemic

We are nearing a year of this pandemic. Almost an entire school year of not seeing students and having a classroom full of kids. This is difficult for even the strongest of teachers. There is something about face-to-face conversations and seeing those “light bulb moments” in person that makes teaching worth it. The day we are able to open our arms wide to students will be the day when this all seems worth it. Our Special Education is hurting deeply, especially with the inability to see students all the time. Giving interventions are not the easiest across a screen. However, until we are able to have them back in their desks, I have gathered some thoughts and helpful tips to keep you pushing through this school year.

 

Heather Wilson with Azusa Pacific University shared some resources and tips for Special Education teachers. She writes “Special Education Resources for Teachers to Use During Distance Learning” to offer support.

 

Author : Heather Wilson

Tailoring your special education resources for remote learning is more important than ever during this time of COVID-19 and schools moving to virtual instruction to keep students and families safe. With stay-at-home orders placed across the country amid the pandemic, distance learning quickly became the norm.

And while adjusting to new remote learning programs is a challenge for many students and teachers, the learning curve can be steeper for special education teachers and their students.

The Challenges of Distance Learning in Special Education

Special education teachers have a responsibility to help their students succeed in accordance with their Individual Educational Programs (IEPs), which create the structure for their individualized lessons and face-to-face guidance.

Distance learning often necessitates a certain level of ease and familiarity with technology, as well as sustained attention, motivation, organization, and cooperation. These are specific challenges for some students with disabilities.

In a classroom setting, students rely on their teachers to help them navigate these challenges. At home, it can be different.

“The loss of sustained physical presence for the purpose of socializing has been a significant loss for teachers and students across all populations during this time,” said Kathleen Bautista, Ed.D., assistant professor in the Division of Teacher Education at Azusa Pacific University. Bautista has decades of experience teaching students enrolled in special education programs and also served as a principal and director of special education. “Direct instruction of social skills has been exceedingly important and also very challenging,” she noted.

With special education teachers spending more time on documentation and paperwork—creating materials for each student so they have what they need to learn and connecting with parents and caregivers who can help support their students—this new way of learning requires resources.

Special Education Online Resources and Apps

Fortunately, there are a plethora of online resources and apps to help your special education students succeed. Take some time to look through what’s available for free (or funded by your district), and then try one or two resources to see what works best for you and your students.

Here’s a list of popular resources and apps that can facilitate special education learning goals:

  • ClassDojo is a distance learning app that allows students, teachers, and families to stay connected digitally through photos, videos, and messages about what they’re learning together and at home.
  • Kahoot! is a free game-based learning platform that lets your students grow academically through fun interactive games. Games are categorized by level and subject, so you can recommend games based on your individual students’ needs.
  • Padlet can help your classroom share answers and information together using a digital bulletin board that every student can see and contribute to.
  • Flipgrid is a website that allows you to create “grids” to lead video discussions with your students. Each grid is like a message board where you can pose questions and then have students post video responses for their classmates to watch and for you to respond to.
  • Audiobooks are perfect for students who are learning reading skills, allowing them to follow along independently while you’re teaching remotely.
  • Word prediction software can help special needs students engage with writing assignments on their own. While various word prediction programs exist, you can find specific ones to help your students with dyslexia, motor skill issues, spelling difficulties, and more.
  • How to Help Your Special Needs Students Learn Remotely

    Special education resources can be both formal and informal. With a combination of both, students can feel supported socially, emotionally, and academically. Here are three strategies for making the most of available resources and effectively supporting students.

    1. Connect with Students Emotionally

    “Emotional well-being is something we all must be cognizant of during times of extreme change that we are currently dealing with,” said Bautista. “This is especially important for our students with special needs. In a time of crisis, emotional needs exceed academic achievement and should be our first priority.”

    To connect with special needs students remotely, you can send them letters, get to know them better with the help of a parent questionnaire, and take time to talk about their interests in class meetings. Every touch point helps build that supportive relationship.

    2. Schedule Time Together as a Class

    It’s also a good idea to prioritize time together as a class. Providing online instruction to the whole class is vital in creating a social presence and routine for your students. It’s a time for them to see their friends, learn a concept collaboratively, and find comfort in being together virtually.

    Schedule smaller group lessons after periods of whole-class instruction. And plan intentional breaks for students before bringing them back for instruction with the entire class.

    3. Make Teaching Videos

    As much as students love watching videos, they tend to love watching videos of their teachers even more. Try recording videos of yourself that students can watch and re-watch.

    For instance, teach a lesson on academics or social skills or share a favorite story. Then, follow it up with a way for students to respond through drawing, writing, or sending a video response. Not only does this give students a chance to learn at their pace, but it allows them another chance to connect with you on a personal level (and frees up the computer for students sharing with their siblings).

    4. Communicate Frequently with Parents and Families

    “Partnerships with parents are always essential, but even more so during distance learning,” said Bautista. She suggests creating newsletters to inform parents of class assignments, schedules, and the strategies you are using in class to help families best support their child.

    “Parents and guardians can also provide you with valuable information on their child’s motivation, effort, and frustrations,” she says, so keep the lines of communication open via phone calls and emails.

    5. Collaborate with Your Team Members

    Service providers such as speech, occupational, and physical therapists will also be working with your students. “You will want to coordinate students’ schedules to accommodate all of their services,” said Bautista.

    Be certain to also assign opportunities for your instructional assistant to work individually or in small groups with your students.

    6. Keep IEP Meetings On Track

    Annual and triennial IEP meetings will need to stay on track during distance learning. Bautista says it’s wise to schedule them at the beginning of the year with your administrator, parents or guardians, and support providers to ensure everyone is on the same page.

    With meetings now taking place virtually, make sure your notices include information about how to log in to the online meeting.

    Whether you’re creating individual activities for hands-on learning or starring in videos tailored to their IEP goals, thanks to resources like the ones above, your special education students can grow and flourish in a digital classroom.

Mondays with Grace – Helpful Tips for Distant Learning

Online learning is not for everyone, I think we all can agree with that. As we are starting the second half of the school year, some districts are still fully online or on a hybrid schedules. Kids are getting more and more restless with sitting behind a computer screen and trying to concentrate for hours at a time. I know at twenty-one years old I even struggle with watching an hour long lecture at home.

Given the fact we do not have an idea of when school’s might be back to “normal”, I wanted to provide some tips and ideas to keep your children or students actively participating.

Space to work

When a student is at school, they are given a designated area that is theirs. Usually desks, these spaces are used for their personal belongings, school supplies, and where they reside for the majority of the day. At home, it is important for students to have this same space. Whether it be the kitchen table, a make shift area in the corner, or a desk in their room. You can find very inexpensive small desks from Walmart or Amazon that can be put up in your kids room. To give children more control over their space, have them decorate around it. Hang up pictures, drawings, or bring stuffed animals to sit with them.

Utilizing Breaks

We know how long awaited those breaks are, especially with our kids who are exceptional learners. When those breaks happen, it is important to use them to the best of your ability. To those kids who need a schedule, or the rest of their day is thrown off, make sure your breaks are planned out as well. Allow them to run outside, or play a specific game. It is important for them to make these choices but also keep monitoring so the rest of their day is chaos.

Use the Same Tactics Their Teachers Use

School is such a vital part of students’ lives, especially those who need each hour planned out. It is no doubt behaviors have changed over the course of the year. Some kids are still even confused at what is going on. Ask their teachers what they do in the classroom. Do they use specific cues during lessons? Does the student like specific manipulatives or flexible seating during learning? What things in the room need to be changed in order to better the student’s attention? Teachers will be more than happy to explain to you some of the things they use throughout the day to help the student!

 

I know this school year has not been the easiest, but it is important as parents, guardians, teachers, and educators to put our best foot forward. We are over the halfway point and close to summer. You can do this!!

Mondays with Grace – New Year, Same Distance Learning

We are back with a new year, but many schools are still dealing with online learning. Students, teachers and parents are all struggling with sitting behind computer screens and focusing. Our friends with learning exceptionalities are facing obstacles they have never endured. Going from one-on-one interactions with all day care, to minimal interactions at home. To keep our friends best interests and value their education, we must remember what they are currently going through and try to minimize other barriers.

Kathryn Welby with Edutopia wants to encourage parents to stay involved and keep student excited about learning. She writes in “How to Improve Distance Learning for Students with IEPs” some examples to help at home.

 

Author: Kathryn Welby

Distance learning isn’t easy for most students, but it is particularly difficult for those with learning differences that require individualized education programs (IEPs).

This year, at the request of Merrimack College Institute for New Teacher Support (MINTS), I provided professional development for K–12 schools on teaching children with IEPs remotely. Quickly, I reached out to a handful of highly qualified teachers, administrators, and therapists working remotely with students who had been diagnosed with learning challenges. Through a quick survey, educators provided best practices and passed on the survey to their colleagues. Within five days, more than 90 educators had responded from more than 30 school districts across the Northeast.

The survey results can be broken down into three overarching themes: parent engagement along with synchronous and asynchronous strategies. The responses uncovered the following best practices to address the needs of students with learning differences.

PARENT ENGAGEMENT

Parents with children diagnosed with disabilities are an essential part of the IEP team, now more than ever. I list some strategies for parent engagement here.

  • Initial remote IEP meeting: Meeting with the parents to go over the IEP is critical. Present Levels of Educational Performance A (PLEP A) outlines accommodations that are useful in the classroom; such accommodations could include frequent breaks, flexible seating, sensory tools, fidgets to focus, reduced distractions, motor breaks, and chewing gum while working independently. Educators note the benefits of working with parents to replicate some of these accommodations at home.
  • Weekly check-ins: Once a mutual understanding among the IEP team is recognized and replications of accommodations are established, a weekly check-in has been useful in modifying the accommodation needs.
  • Goal setting: Pick an IEP objective or two each week to focus on with your students. Having too many goals, assignments, and expectations has led to failure and diminished student motivation.
  • Service delivery participation: Occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech and language therapists shared that the most significant benefit to providing services remotely is parent involvement. Many are re-creating services to involve fun activities that parents can participate in while the therapist is watching virtually and making suggestions. The benefits have increased the reinforcement of IEP goals and parent engagement at home.

“Parents seem to be more invested as they take part in their child’s programming,” said Aimee Johnson, an occupational therapist in Auburn, New Hampshire. “It’s a perfect opportunity for parent education and collaboration. Parents can see the skills their children are working on and can carry them over more effectively.”

SYNCHRONOUS STRATEGIES

Another common theme of the survey is the importance of increasing engagement during live, virtual, synchronous meetings. My respondents shared the following specific ideas.

Mixing up preferred and nonpreferred activities: IEP goals and objectives may not be the student’s preferred virtual learning activity. Mixing preferred and nonpreferred activities increases engagement. Individually tailoring the preferred activities to each student’s interests has led to an increase in productivity.

For example, create Popsicle sticks with specific activities. Each Popsicle stick has either an activity to address an IEP objective or a preferred activity such as “Do a cartwheel” or “Show me your pet.” During each virtual meeting, the educator blindly chooses a Popsicle stick until all of the activities are done. When you add some fun, students are more willing to do the nonpreferred activities. There are also websites to replicate this, such as Wheel Decide.

Virtual book clubs: Create book clubs based on students’ reading levels and similar IEP goals. Treat the book clubs as a social event and suggest that students come to these meetings with snacks. Have students dress in character or act out parts while engaging in comprehension activities in addition to working on yearly IEP goals.

Start virtual meetings with a fun, engaging activity: Start each virtual meeting with an engaging event to motivate students to join before starting academics. For example, on Mondays have students wear a costume, on Tuesdays schedule a household scavenger hunt, on Wednesdays allow students to bring their favorite stuffed animal to class. Such activities have students looking forward to attending, boost engagement, and tend to increase participation.

ASYNCHRONOUS STRATEGIES

The third theme of the survey results is the importance of engagement during independent, asynchronous assignments and activities. Respondents shared the following ideas.

Visuals, routines, schedules: Provide students with daily visual schedules, and educate them on the use of timers to promote independence. Any deviations from the routine can create an opportunity to lose students and can cause frustration. Keep the day predictable.

“I create individualized weekly schedules for my students,” said Kelli Alessandro, a special education teacher in Methuen, Massachusetts. “Included in these schedules are their assignments and expectations with links to documents, websites, or other materials in a centrally located document. These schedules assist the students and caregivers with pacing, planning, organization, and task completion, among other functional skills.”

Movement breaks: Within the schedule, built-in movement breaks have been useful. Replicating the school’s sensory paths with a DIY sensory motor path or creating one outside on a sidewalk or driveway with chalk is an excellent way to incorporate multiple movement breaks within the day.

Recorded videos: When providing students with asynchronous learning programs, recorded video instructions for students and parents to refer to have helped to reinforce IEP goals.

Accept all completed work: Students come from different environments, and not all students have equal access to computers and tablets. Learning what works best for the family and accepting completed work through various methods, such as electronic media, picture texts, and paper copies, has increased the frequency of completed work.

BE YOURSELF

In addition to the discussed themes, a reoccurring and nonspecific idea was the importance of having fun, acting silly, and creating a supportive environment in which to learn. When your students look back on the months of remote learning, they won’t remember the incredible math lesson you spent hours preparing. They will remember the relationship you established with them. They will remember the silly hats you wore, the fun games you played, and the way you made them forget the scary realities of the world. Your students will remember you and your ability to make them feel safe and happy through this horrible global pandemic.

Mondays with Grace – Adjusting the Holidays for our Friends with Learning Exceptionalities

During the holiday season, there is always a ton on the to-do list. From visiting family to fighting holiday crowds, Christmastime is many activities in a short time period. For anyone, holidays can be overwhelming and cause anxiety. Our friends with learning exceptionalities also have these exact same emotions. When planning what to do over breaks, it is important to remember some tips to keep from adding on even more stress. Lisa Jo Rudy, from Very Well Family, wrote a quick blogs of tips and tricks to enjoying the holidays with your children who might have special needs.

The holidays are a wonderful time for some kids. Bright lights, holiday music, parades, parties, and visits with Santa can all be the stuff of happy childhood memories. Events that feature loud noise, big crowds, and bright lights can be overwhelming for children with special needs and their parents.

Even more difficult can be others’ judgments of a child who just doesn’t behave in expected ways. The rolled eyes when a child can’t respond instantly to a question “what do you want Santa to bring you?” The whispers when a child melts down, especially when they are “old enough to behave.”

It can be tempting to disappear into your own home with your special needs child and shut the world out. Depending on your child and your situation, you may need that sometimes—but know that you don’t have to.

There are ways for families with special needs children to enjoy the holidays without pain. Here are some top suggestions for making the season bright.

 

Avoid Crowds

Crowds are tough for many people, and for kids with special needs, they can be overwhelming. Children who are overwhelmed are much more likely to melt down, misbehave, or simply freeze up.

To avoid the problem, avoid the crowds. Here’s how:

  • Instead of parades and big town-wide Christmas light events, consider taking a car drive to see some of the best local light displays. Some areas even offer large-scale drive-through light displays. You can enjoy the wonders of the beautiful lights without the cold, noise, or crowds.
  • Visit special holiday displays at off-hours. Look at holiday windows when shops are closed, or stop in at decorated museums or shops first thing in the morning when no one else is up yet.
  • Instead of going to the mall to visit Santa, invite “Santa” to visit your home for a personal chat.
  • Rather than visiting the crowded Christmas Market in a city, stop in at your local nursery where pretty holiday greens and lights create a miniature wonderland.
  • Check the paper and Google “sensory-friendly Santas,” shops, movies, and more. Many communities create experiences specifically geared to the needs of kids and adults who are easily overwhelmed by sensory overload.
  • Stay home and bake cookies, make paper garlands, cut snowflakes, or otherwise have crafty fun with your child. If you need to do most of the work, that’s ok.

 

Make Swaps and Adjustments

Many families look forward to attending full-scale performances of the Nutcracker or Messiah. When they go holiday shopping, it’s a multi-hour affair, and Christmas at Grandma’s starts at dawn and doesn’t end until long after dark.

There are many ways to enjoy holiday experiences on a smaller scale, and most children with special needs can handle a little holiday fun. For example:

  • Instead of attending a professional musical or dance event with your child, consider smaller, local performances or concerts that are less formal, less expensive, and shorter. Even if your child starts to melt down in the middle and you need to leave, you’ll know your child had at least a taste of a classic holiday experience.
  • Plan on short, simple shopping trips that make sense to your child. Rather than trying to do it all at once, take your child shopping for just one or two special gifts for friends or family members. Encourage your child to select a particular gift for a loved one so they can have the experience of watching them open it.
  • When planning your actual Christmas Day, think about your child’s needs before making any commitments. If your child can handle a couple of hours (but not a whole day) of family togetherness, decide ahead of time which hours are really important. Let your extended family know your plan, and stick to it.
  • If you generally attend religious services on Christmas, consider sitting near the back of the sanctuary so you have an easy “escape route.” If the length of the service becomes too much for your child, you can beat an easy retreat.

 

Worry Less About “Age-Appropriate” Experiences

Many kids with special needs are “younger than their years.” A 12-year-old with special needs may still get a big kick out of holiday-themed Thomas the Tank Engine toys or a visit with Santa. At this special time of the year, though, everyone is a kid.

Consider choosing a few toys and experiences that will resonate with your child even if they’re really intended for younger children. After all, many adults still love watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

A few more possibilities to consider:

  • Let your child decorate cookies no matter what the decorations look like.
  • Watch The Muppets Christmas Carol instead of the longer, scarier versions of the story.
  • Wrap up a few presents that your child will love, no matter the age on the box.

 

Be Gentle With Yourself and Your Child

It’s normal to feel frustrated when a child with special needs doesn’t seem to “get” the holidays or appreciate all you do to make the season special. It can be equally hard to endure the stares and comments of well-meaning family and friends who just don’t understand why your child isn’t appropriately happy and engaged.

You can’t change the behavior or feelings of other people, but you can change your own.

To make the holidays easier for everyone (including you):

  • Remember that the holidays aren’t for garnering praise or appreciation; they’re for building relationships and memories (and, for many people, for remembering the religious significance of Christmas). If you’re able to remember even a few special moments when the holidays are done, you’ve succeeded.
  • Try to find ways to connect with your child at his level or around his interests. Could you possibly find a way to drum up interest in the things that fascinate them, even for half an hour? You might be surprised at the positive results you get.
  • Give yourself permission to walk away from difficult situations. While some extended families and friends can be wonderful with special needs kids, others…aren’t. If your family falls into that second group, it’s ok to pack it up early and just go home. You’re under no obligation to stick with an unpleasant situation.
  • Get support when you need it. Maybe you really need to attend a carol sing, a church service, or a special party even if your child can’t or won’t. There’s nothing wrong with asking for a little respite care from friends or family so that you can have the experience you need to recharge and remember why the holidays are special.

Mondays with Grace – Christmas in a Pandemic… Where to Begin?

With the holiday season among us, families are starting to pose many questions. Do we continue on traditions like normal? How do we celebrate Christmas and other holidays in the midst of a pandemic? What are other families doing? All reasonable questions in such a mysterious time. This year has been full of so many unknowns, including how to navigate through holidays. Even though I am no where near becoming a parent, I am the oldest of four children and work with kids in schools and churches. I realize how important the holiday season is and how families are concerned about how to continue celebrating without risking safety. I also understand how many kids are either currently home or will be home soon for Christmas break. Children are about to have a lot of time on their hands to get into the Christmas spirit. I took some time to think of five neat ideas to continue spreading cheer without spreading germs. These ideas can be shared among all of our friends who live or do not live with learning exceptionalities. Hope y’all enjoy (:

 

Decorate your house!

Use the time off to deck the halls! Doors, windows, fireplaces, EVERY room in your house! With time off from school or normal activities, it is the perfect opportunity to cover every inch of your home with Christmas décor. Pinterest is covered with DIY holiday crafts and cheap options. One of my favorite memories from childhood was my family’s door decoration contest. All four of us kids would use wrapping paper, bows, and signs on our bedroom doors. We would see who could be the most creative. For those of you who love lights, fill the rooftops or front lawn with festive lights, as well.

 

Christmas Movie Night

What’s better than piling into the living room, snuggled up with some hot cocoa, and turning on How the Grinch Stole Christmas? Pick a movie for the whole family to enjoy and watch a Christmas classic. Take your movie night a step further and have everyone dress up as one of the characters or build a comfy fort to watch it in!

 

Drive & Look at Christmas Lights

With more people stuck inside this year, decorating the outside of the house has become even more popular. Pack the family into the car, grab some candy canes, turn on Christmas music, and drive around your town to find lights. With your younger kids, let them wear their pajamas out and bring blankets.

 

Send out Christmas Cards

The joy of receiving a card around the holiday season is indescribable. I have never heard anyone complain about getting a small something in the mail. Take a quick family photo in front of the tree and use an online service to order cards. Or to get the kids involved, have them make homemade cards. Order or pick up some construction paper and markers, and let the kids get creative with drawings. Gather around the family table and use everyone’s special ability to put together some incredible cards to give to loved ones.

 

Bake Christmas Goodies

Do you have a recipe you have been dying to try? Have the kids been asking to be in the kitchen and help? Baking around the holiday season is great way to get all hands deck and teach the kids how to bake. It’s as easy a picking a family favorite bake good or just making sugar cookies to have the kids decorate with icing. Make a day out of it and deliver some to family or neighbors.

Join us next week for another Mondays with Grace!

 

 

 

Monday with Maureen: IEPs Need to Be Read

Our shared post for today is an article written by The Mighty staff editor Ellen Stumbo, and it’s definitely worth a read.

With school back in session and so many of our products doubling as educational toys and therapeutic tools, we hear a number of customers either lamenting their unrecognized individualized education plans (IEPs), or rejoicing over teachers putting forth extra effort in addressing the needs of their children. While many educators certainly do take the time required for proper implementation of IEPs, many also forget, end up slammed with other tasks, don’t receive the IEPs in a timely manner, or in some cases, fail to see any importance in following the IEP at all.

It completely depends on the teacher, the school, the child, the district – so many moving pieces can affect how an IEP is received. This doesn’t make them any less important, however. Ellen Stumbo’s piece about this very issue is a thorough, passionate discussion of how IEPs need to be taken seriously by the education system, and if you can sympathize with the matter or would like to learn more about what it’s like to struggle against academic red tape, reading her article is a great way to spend your next few minutes.

Monday with Maureen: “Helping Your Kids Stand Up to Cyberbullies When You’re New in Town”

Cyberbullying is the high-tech, mutated version of bullying that so many of our children encounter nowadays. 32 percent of teens have been victims of some type of cyberbullying so it’s obviously a huge issue. Noah Smith offers insights and advice for handling cyberbullying wisely, guidance usable for both victims and their families. Noah loves sharing his travel advice on WellnessVoyager. He tries to take one big trip each year, is currently saving up to backpack through Europe, and graced our blog with his presence this morning through these insights into the mental health struggles so many endure throughout their childhood.

 

Author: Noah Smith

Mention the word “bully” and what comes to mind? For many adults, the term conjures up images of a juvenile thug with tattered clothes and big muscles stealing lunch money from his terrified victims. In some ways this classic depiction still rings true. In other cases, however, bullies have traded in the street corner shakedown racket for smartphones and social media accounts. Experts call this new, high-tech form of harassment cyberbullying. In many ways, the effects of cyberbullying are far more devastating than the old school approach. Here’s why:

 

  • Anonymity. Cyberspace enables a bully to torment others while shielding the offender from reprisal. The old “sock ’em in the nose” approach to fighting an aggressor is useless in such cases. This fact worsens the target’s sense of helplessness.
  • Vulgarity. Digital media removes the face-to-face aspect of communication that makes people prone to civility. Cyberspace is a virtual free-for-all in which the only rule is to cause as much pain as possible by using any means necessary.
  • Accessibility. Internet access and smartphones are cheap and easy to get. This enables anyone with a grudge to turn the cyberworld into a place to indulge their darkest impulses. In some cases, disturbed individuals have found a lost phone and used it to cyberbully complete strangers.

 

Anonymous, abusive, and elusive: these qualities make cyberbullies dangerous. The consequences of their actions are especially dangerous to adolescents. Peer approval is all-important during the formative years of one’s life. According to a paper from Toronto University Worldwide, rejection or ostracization can set the stage for later problems such as bad grades, drug addiction, and even criminal activity.

 

Why Cyberbullies Love to Target the New Kid

Not all kids experience cyberbullying, of course. As with traditional bullies, digital predators focus on those they see as weak or vulnerable. Quite often, their chosen victim is the new kid in school. According to Psychology Today, this is because newcomers are socially isolated. They have yet to develop a network of supportive friends, making them easy prey. A recent arrival may find her email or social media account filled with offensive messages from people whom she had no idea existed a few days before. The effects can devastate her self-esteem and set her up for years of lonely isolation.

 

Watching this happen to anyone’s child is tough for concerned adults. The emotional toil is catastrophic when the victim is your own kid. The good news is that neither parents nor their family members are helpless in the face of cyberbullying. Here are proven ways you can fight back:

 

  • Begin by placing blame where it lies: with the bully. The victim should refuse to feel flawed or worthless, no matter what the cyberbully says or does. This act of self-assertion lessens the predator’s power to harm others.
  • Document everything. Nothing in cyberspace ever goes away. While this fact adds to the pain of cyberbullying, it also creates an everlasting record of the bully’s misdeeds. For this reason, it’s vital to never delete demeaning or threatening messages.
  • Use the available tools. Email and social media providers offer powerful tools to secure accounts and foil predators. Make sure you kids know how to use them. They should never share passwords, divulge sensitive information, or share embarrassing or inappropriate images via digital means.
  • Get help. There’s no reason for those targeted by cyberbullies to feel bad about alerting parents, teachers, or other authority figures to what’s going on. Doing so can help to stop the predator from targeting other victims in the future.
  • Create a safe space at home. You can do this by establishing an “Internet free” period of time during which everyone in the home, adults included, must log out of their accounts, turn off all devices, and reflect on the events of the day. Your child should know that she can approach you during this interval to discuss whatever is on her mind. This will give her a much-needed sense of emotional security that will help her to face who or whatever may come her way, including a cyberbully intent on gaining emotional satisfaction at her expense.

 

Cyberbullies can cause a lot of undeserved suffering. But using the tips discussed in this post can help parents and kids to stand up for their rights, making the Internet a safer place for everyone.

Monday with Maureen: Wobbling Can Be Wonderful

Kids are well into the school year now that fall is just around the corner. For fidgeters, friends who can’t sit still, learners affected by ADD or ADHD, and even anxious kiddos who wiggle around as they combat their stress, a wobbly chair can make a world of difference. Kore Wobble Chairs are stools with patented rounded bottoms, allowing kids to wobble and improve balance while doing school work, playing video games, snacking, or pretty much anything activity involving sitting. Check out this video and see what you think! Who knows – maybe it’s just the thing you or your kiddo needs! See what colors we carry on our website, and let us know if we can get you one of these wonderfully wobbly chairs.

Monday with Maureen: “A Very Bad Day”

This post is more than an account of what kiddos on the autism spectrum can experience day to day. It’s a story about parenting, about courage and learning, about understanding and listening, about encouraging and pushing when you have to in order to help someone succeed. It’s a story about a parent just as much as it is about a child, I think, and that mingling of perspectives caught my eye as I read. Sho H, author of this post and its blog source, H2Au: the stuff of our life, is a blogger, copywriter and freelance writer. Also published on The Mighty, she writes about Autism, hidden disabilities and parenting children with additional needs. She lives in Scotland, UK with her husband and two daughters, and her work can be found at the following links:

  • https://www.facebook.com/H2Au.thestuffofourlife/
  • https://twitter.com/H2AuStuffofLife
  • https://h2au.wordpress.com/
  • [email protected]

Author: Sho H.

“It’s been a very bad day Mummy” was the phrase repeated continually yesterday evening after I collected Little Miss H from school.

Standing in the playground I knew it had been. I could tell by her gait, by her facial expression, by the purple bags under her eyes against her too pale skin, by the sadness of her aura. As she slowly walked towards me, scuffing her boots along the salted concrete of the playground, her eyes downcast, her hand up to her mouth chewing her sleeve and her water bottle hanging forlornly from her other hand, I knew we were in for a tricky evening.

I suppressed the urge to say “stop scuffing your boots” (do you know the damage the salt does to the leather?), or “stop chewing your sleeve” and instead just held my arms open for her. She doesn’t usually like public displays of affection especially at school (“It’s against the rules to hug and kiss at school”) but I could see she needed some overt love.

She didn’t come into my arms for a cuddle but she was demure and allowed me to touch her arm.

Her water bottle had been broken that day and she was frightened she’d be in trouble. Mostly though she was just sad. Disproportionately heartbroken actually. You see change is hard for her. Saying good bye to things is really hard. Her stuff is her portable safe space that she attaches so much love and importance to, it keeps her grounded so to have a piece of it broken is like someone throwing a brick through your window. It is devastating for her.

Of course I reassured her that the broken water bottle could be replaced. [No it won’t be the same one, it’ll be a new one but you can choose it. No I can’t fix the old one. Yes I know X person gave it to you for your birthday and yes I know it’s the fourth one that’s broken in however long. Yes I know it matched your pencil case and yes I know it was a ‘Frozen’ one].

With an unexpected burst of energy she was suddenly confrontational. These shifts come out of the blue.

We were due to take Tiny Miss H to Rainbows and this was suddenly proving too much for her.

She was shouting at me that she didn’t want to take her to “stupid rainbows” and it wasn’t “fair”, that she’d “be bored” and why should she have to go with us just because Tiny had an activity…. And so it went on. The real issue is she wanted her safe space, she wanted to hunker down after an exhausting day.

The challenge is enabling Tiny to maintain an ‘ordinary’ life, which includes after school activities, at the same time as supporting Little’s needs. If anyone has the answer on how to get the balance right please let me know.

There isn’t an option, she is eight years old, she was coming with us, so with my arm wrapped tightly around her shoulders we walked towards the car. The deep pressure, once she’s ready to let me touch her, is very reassuring for her and being hypo-sensitive she needs a very tight squeeze. So it was that I held her as firmly as I could with one arm whilst holding Tiny’s hand with my other hand and walking clumsily as if in a sort of three legged race, bags bashing against my shins, all of out of sync, we somehow managed to get to the car!

That’s when she said it “it’s been a very bad day mummy”

Chats in the car are usually the most successful; no expected eye contact, the crowd and melee of the playground has dispersed and we are away from the source of stress.

It turned out that she had been “mobbed” and crowded around at lunchtime in the playground and she didn’t have the ability to extract herself. She didn’t know what to do, what to say, who to go to for help. So stuck in the mob, she drowned. She’s carried that with her all afternoon.

The physical toll it had taken on her was visible to see. She was anxious, stressed and absolutely exhausted.

This on top of the broken water bottle made it “a very bad day”.

Within the 7 minute journey home she had told me it was “a very bad day” about twelve times.

This is echolalia, repeating herself is a form of stimming. It helps her cope with anxiety.

When she has bad days we have a ritual which helps her get from the car to the house and that is a “Mummy squeeze” once in the kitchen – a prolonged super tight cuddle. It physically hurts me she is so strong, but it is what she needs so squeeze away we do. I feel like a tube of toothpaste being squeezed, I can barely breathe, she feels like I’m lightly holding her yet I’m using as much force as I can muster! “It was a very bad day” she mumbles into my chest.

This helps her calm and from there I was able to persuade her that whilst Tiny was at her Rainbow’s Pyjama party we would go and choose her a new water bottle.

Meanwhile she’d also clocked the box of books in the hallway that we inherited a while back from cousins and I’d been storing in the garage. Luckily they proved a timely distraction! “It was a very bad day mummy” she muttered to the books as she rifled through the box.

We successfully deposited Tiny at her pyjama party but with all the distraction I had forgotten her cuddly toy and blanket…cue a mini tantrum from Tiny!

Finally extricating myself from the clutches of the Tiny tirade – I escape outside frazzled and on tenterhooks to persuade Little to walk with me to the butchers before going on to buy her bottle. Reluctant to walk anywhere normally I was braced for the fall out but in response all I got was “It was a really bad day Mummy”. She was so well behaved in the butcher’s that they gave her a fudge. She decided it had been worth walking! “Still a bad day?” with an eyebrow raised, “Mmm” she shrugged, “it’s getting better”.

On to the supermarket to buy her bottle, I managed to persuade her to make a practical and useful choice that would withstand at least some playground action without too much argument. We’d been playful and chatty walking round the supermarket. Things had turned around. I was still on edge keeping it light, keeping her happy. Then we bumped into Tiny’s class teacher who stopped to chat. The transformation from playful and chatty was marked. Little Miss went quiet and couldn’t make eye contact. Out of the context of school, her confidence had melted away and her anxiety kicked in. To a stranger this would appear as ‘shyness’ but it’s different.

Selective mutism is an extreme social anxiety that results in an inability to speak. It is involuntary and more than simple shyness. I’m proud though as she did manage to squeak something to me as the teacher was walking away. Then straight back to being chatty with me once we were safely alone again.

At the till, the cashier told us the amount and Little Miss repeated it in various voices, over and over and over again. Anxiety making her repeat the words. Again, her echolalia. The opposite if you like from selective mutism. Still anxiety driven and not necessarily ‘appropriate interaction’. I could see the anxiety ramping up so a quick distraction technique was needed. Her forte is maths so I made it her job to tell me how much I still owed each time I produced a coin and that busied her brain but in between each amount she still repeated the total amount in a strange voice. The cashier was so patient, smiling and friendly and put absolutely no pressure on her, instead only complimenting her on the maths. The fact there was no queue and no one else around at that moment helped all of us enormously. I didn’t feel stressed or self-conscious, and Little Miss just did her thing.

Once back in the car she asked for water and I didn’t have any. I, almost flippantly, suggested she run back in to buy some. My genuine intention was to buy time whilst I was finishing putting something away in my bag before going back in myself but to my utter astonishment she said “OK”!

So…We talked about what she would do, where she would go, how to choose what she wanted, where she would pay. We talked about the change she’d wait for, the route back to the car and the fact I would not move from the spot I was in. We land marked where I had parked for her to reference it. It was a HUGE amount of information we covered.

She hesitated. She took the coin. She ran. She went round the corner…… I watched and watched and watched, heart hammering and holding my breath until finally there she was running back with a bottle of water in her hand, a smile on her beautiful face, pride in her eyes and flushed cheeks to show for it.

She had gone round the corner to the door of the shop, walked in, turned right to the fridge, chosen still water (not flavoured, not fizzy, just plain , it’s all she drinks), she stood in the queue with two people in front of her and waited calmly (“feeling very nervous mummy” she told me), and when it was her turn the same lady recognised her and helped her through, I’m still not clear whether she actually spoke, but she waited for her change, and ran back to the door, turned left, round the corner and sprinted back to the car “7 spaces down” she told me. Climbed in out of breath, heart hammering (or was that mine?), asked me to open her water and drank it. “I’m so proud of you darling” I told her, “I’m really proud of myself” she said.

SHE DID IT. I smiled with tears streaming down my face as we drove to collect Tiny.

“It was a very bad day mummy” she told me at bedtime, “but it ended well” we said in unison.