Monday, September 29, 2014

Practice Kindness

randomactsofkindness.org
















Kindness is one of the first character traits we teach children.

Visit any preschool classroom or playground and you may hear adults say things like:

"Be nice."

"You need to share."

"Say thank you."

Children are reminded early on that it's important to be nice to others and treat others with kindness. The adults in their lives model this for them again and again. 

However, as children get older, they begin to see people around them make different choices. Children are always watching, always listening, and always learning. 

They begin to learn that:

People don't always do nice things for each other. 

People don't always share. 

People don't always say thank you.

People don't always choose their words carefully. 

Kindness often seems to get left behind somewhere in early childhood and the "kindness muscle" that we worked so hard as parents to cultivate, begins to weaken.

How can we expect children to be kind when people around them are making different choices?

The answer is simple: PRACTICE KINDNESS!

Kindness is a muscle that can be strengthened with practice. I believe we must intentionally practice kindness in our own lives and show children what it means to be kind to others. When young people see that we value kindness, they will make choices that are kind and follow our example!

Kindness is not so much taught, but inspired! I believe this is especially true in schools.

Dr. Todd Whitaker, author of "What Great Teachers Do Differently," believes that children see everyone in the school community as a teacher, regardless of their role:

"... I call everyone in a school a teacher. It doesn't matter to me if they are a cook or a custodian, secretary, bus driver, teacher assistant, librarian, counselor, assistant principal, school nurse, or teacher. I have learned that if young people see us one way or the other, we are a teacher.  And I also believe, that if we don't model what we teach, we're still teaching. Only we're just teaching something else."

With this in mind, I feel that it is even more important for the school community (parents, staff, teachers, administrators) to practice kindness on a daily basis. Each interaction we have with another person is an opportunity respond with kindness!


This year, I am working with a number of people to help inspire kindness in NCS students and the school community. At the beginning of September, we started the Kind Kids Club at Star Academy. Each month, students in a different grade level will be challenged to complete 10 random acts of kindness (or more!) at home and in the community. During the month, I work with teachers to provide weekly kindness lessons to students, teach them a kindness pledge, and complete a few school-wide random acts of kindness. At the end of the month, we will have a celebration and continue the Kind Kids Club with the next grade level.

Here are some things the Kind Kids Club 1st Graders have been doing:

Students decorated an appreciation banner for school custodians!




















Here are a few examples of what students from Mrs. Kahler's 1st grade class have been up to at home and in their communities:

 



1st Graders in Ms. Kloczko's class used technology to share some of their Random Acts of Kindness:


We also took a day to focus on Kindness in the Friendship Club Workshop at PACT Academy. 1st-3rd Grade students practiced random acts of kindness during their class session, which included approaching a parent, staff member, or student they didn't know, handing them a flower, and saying, "Have a nice day!" Students also decorated bookmarks with kindness messages and hid them in the library at PACT for others to find. Students had so much fun being kind!

Following our random acts of kindness at PACT, a parent was inspired to create flower pots filled with pens and whiteboard markers for our school! These colorful flower pots now sit in PACT classrooms and can be found all around the building.


Kindness even was a part of our high school and middle school Wellness Week at PFAA, Leading Edge, and VLA Academies. Positive messages were painted on yellow signs and posted all around central gathering areas of campus. In addition, at lunchtime, students were given "Connected Cards" with kind messages that they were told to pass along to a friend or someone who might need a little kindness that day.


We are planting seeds of kindness all around Natomas Charter School. The greatest thing about kindness is that acts of kindness are contagious! When kindness is practiced, others begin to pick up on these actions and slowly they become more than a random occurrence. Kindness then becomes part of the school culture, what we practice at home and what we bring to our communities.


Be Kind...and pass it on!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Summer Fun

Summer seems to be here a little sooner than expected! The weather forecast on the radio is calling for 105 degrees today in downtown Sacramento! Whew!

While we finish out this final week of school, you might already be thinking about your summer plans! Here are a few ideas to get your started or to spark some creativity!

Image Credit: Butterfly Photography














However, I want to stress that down time is really important and kids/tweens/teens DO need time to just relax and play! (Especially if your school year has been filled with extracurricular activities, performances, etc.) For younger children, this may mean unstructured play time with family and friends - maybe scheduling a few of those days where you do "nothing" or just spend the afternoon in the backyard! For tweens and teens, family time is important, but they also need to stay connected to their friends and keep those relationships strong (this is developmentally appropriate and necessary!) Some of the best memories from my teen years were summer adventures with friends (no parents!), staying up late, going new places and laughing/talking for hours!


FUN ACTIVITIES
You can use this pre-made list of summer activities or make your own with your kids! Find out what they want to do this summer and some of the things they're looking forward to. Teens can make these too!
Image Credit: myfrugaladventures.com
Image Credit: myfrugaladventures.com




















Download full-size copies of these lists for HERE!
http://myfrugaladventures.com/2013/05/summer-fun-list-2013-free-printable/


If you like art and are the creative type,  HERE are some low-budget ways to keep kids busy all summer long!
Image Credit: http://lilluna.com




















Here's a Best and Worst List for Teens from a Parent Perspective!



Images Credit: www.thebrightboxblog.ca









































VOLUNTEERING
If you have tweens or teens, here are some ideas and meaningful opportunities in the greater Sacramento area (hopefully to unglue them from their electronic devices for a few hours!)

Image Credit: teenlife.com














City of Sacramento - Youth Opportunities & Resources http://portal.cityofsacramento.org/HR/Volunteer-Opportunities/Youth-Opportunities-Resources

City of Roseville - Community Volunteer Opportunities (Sacramento and Placer Counties)
https://www.roseville.ca.us/hr/volunteer_center/volunteer_opportunites.asp

Parks Leadership Academy for Youth - Natomas
http://www.angeliqueashby.com/district-one-business/parks-recreation/play
























SUMMER READING LIST
For those of you that love to read, here are some suggestions!

KIDS


The Great Big Book of Feelings
Mary Hoffman / Illustrated:  Ros Asquith
A great blog post from Playing by the Book discussing the book and a fun activity. This book comes in Spanish and also has an accompanying book about families.  http://www.playingbythebook.net/2013/04/15/a-must-have-book-about-feelings/














Big Questions from Little People: And Simple Answers from Great Minds
Gemma Elwin Harris
I recently discovered this book and I can't wait to read it myself! If your child is at the age where they are asking a lot of questions about the world around them - then this is for you! Food for the curious mind! You can read more about this book here.










TEENS


This Star Won't Go Out
Esther Earl

The life and words of Esther Earl, who passed away from thyroid cancer complications at the age of sixteen. An inspiring and passionate teen who dreamed of being an author. Read more about Esther and the foundation started in her memory: http://tswgo.org/.














They Stood Alone
Sandra McLeod Humphrey
Read about twenty-five extraordinary men and women who had the courage to stand up for what they believed in and follow their dreams - even when everyone around them said they were wrong. Read more about this book here: http://www.kidscandoit.com/kids-books/they-stood-alone.html.










PARENTS
Brainstorm and Parenting From the Inside Out
Dan J. Siegel, M.D. 

Dr. Siegel is currently a clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA and Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute. Brainstorm focuses on how brain development impacts teen behavior and relationships. Parenting From the Inside Out is great for any parent, and provides insight into how our childhood experiences shape the way we parent our children. To learn more about Dr. Siegel, please visit his webpage.




















Be sure to stay connected to the Counseling Corner Blog over the summer!

Image Credit: bubblyandbean.com

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Let's Talk about Mental Health...

The month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month!

Image Credit: eachmindmatters.org









On May 13th, 2014, over approximately 1,500 people gathered on the steps of the California State Capitol to share ideas, tools, and resources for reducing stigma and raising mental health awareness. "Mental Health Matters Day" is part of an ongoing movement in California, fueled by Proposition 63, to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and to increase awareness and access to mental health services in local communities across the state.

Image Credit: eachmindmatters.org

As a school counselor, I feel it is very important to talk about mental illness - an issue that affects 61.5 million adults in America each year.


"A mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person's thinking, feeling, mood, ability to related to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life."


"Serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder. The good news about mental illness is that recovery is possible."



"Mental illnesses can affect persons of any age, race, religion or income. Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing. Mental illnesses are treatable. Most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in an individual treatment plan."


Image Credit: childmind.org

Mental Illness and Children
Many are less familiar with is how mental illness can affect children and adolescents. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):
  • One-half of all chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14, three-quarters by age 24. Despite effective treatment, there are long delays - sometimes decades - between the first appearance of symptoms and when people get help. 
  • Approximately 20 percent of youth ages 13 to 18 experience severe mental disorders in a given year. For ages 8 to 15, the estimate is 13 percent. Almost one-half of youth ages 8 to 15 with a mental illness received no mental health services in the previous year. 
  • Over 50 percent of students with a mental health condition age 14 and older who are served by special education drop out - the highest dropout rate of any disability group.

Image Credit: Huffington Post

When Should I Be Concerned?
Below are a few tools that parents can reference if they have concerns about a child's behavior or recent changes in mood. Keep in mind that tools are only to provide reference and that any ongoing concerns should be addressed by the student's pediatrician or a mental health professional. 

http://www.childmind.org/en/health/symptom-checker

It's important to remember that there are many children living with a parent that has mental illness. This may impact the student in a number of ways, including emotionally, behaviorally, and academically. Depending on the parent's access to resources and treatment, the student may not be in a 
stable environment or lacking the additional academic support at home. Additionally, cultural factors play a huge part in whether individuals with mental health seek treatment and services. These include language, cultural/community views of mental illnesses, and religion. 





Resources

NAMI: http://www.nami.org/template.cfm?section=Child_and_Adolescent_Action_Center
HERE you can find some excellent resources provided by NAMI for parents and caregivers of students which includes parenting resources, treatment and best practices, and much more. They even have resources for schools and child-serving professionals (HERE).

Interested in the other ways Proposition 63 is working to reduce the stigma of mental illness across California? Watch this Public Television documentary created by KVIE in Sacramento. "A New State of Mind" will air on KVIE on May 30th, 2014. You can also watch it at this link HERE or below. Another documentary, titled, "A Choice to Heal - Mental Health in California"will be aired on CBS stations on May 31, 2014 in the cities of Sacramento, Fresno, San Francisco, and Lost Angeles. This documentary will be hosted by Kevin Hines (http://www.kevinhinesstory.com), a survivor of his own suicide attempt 14 years ago and will also feature Mariel Hemingway, who addresses the history of mental illness in her own family. 




If you have additional questions about mental health or would like further information about how to bring awareness to the issue, you may contact me directly at chines@natomascharter.org.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

All About ADHD

Image Credit: Mind Med 

ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a biological disorder that is one of the most researched topics in child and adolescent mental health. Although the definition of ADHD has changed many times in the last decade (reflecting changes in conceptualization of the disorder and the newest research) the needs of the individuals and families living with ADHD have not. 

ADHD is not a mythical disorder. ADHD is a neurobiological disorder recognized by the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, and American Pediatric Association (among many others). ADHD is more than a disorder of attention, hyperactivity, or poor impulse control, although these characteristics are generally the most observed.

"ADHD is not just a temporary state that a child will outgrow, or a normal phase of childhood that will pass in time. It is not behaviors caused by parental failure to discipline the child, or willfulness caused by bad temperament  but a real disorder that can be confusing, heartbreaking and nerve-wracking to the child and family that surrounds them. Even though there are no outward signs that a handicap is present, ADHD, like other disabilities, can bring significant challenges to the child and their family." (Lougy, DeRuvo, & Rosenthal, 2009). 


 Image Credit: Not Just a Bean Bag

ADHD is currently understood as a developmental impairment of the brain's self-management system (executive functioning). There is no relationship between intelligence and ADHD. Rather, there seems to be an important relationship ADHD and the ability to regulate emotions, as well as motivation. 

"Impairments of ADHD are not due to a global excess or lack of a specific chemical within or around the brain. The primary problem is related to chemicals manufactured, released, and reloaded...Persons with ADHD tend not to release enough of these essential chemicals, or to release and reload them too quickly. ADHD medication helps to improve this process."
(Thomas Brown, Ph.D. - ADDitudemag)

ADHD disrupts a person's ability to manage his/her behavior or to act with certain consequences in mind - which explains why individuals with ADHD struggle most when they must complete tasks with no "immediate payoff" - for school-age children and adolescents, this can mean homework, reading, writing, or household responsibilities. If the task at hand does not offer immediate reinforcement or reward, chances are the individual with ADHD will struggle to complete the given task.

"Goal-directed, future-oriented behavior demands that a person be able to motivate himself/herself internally. This ability is described as willpower, self-discipline, ambition, persistence, determination, or drive. ADHD disrupts this mechanism, leaving those with the disorder 'low on fuel' in motivating behavior toward future rewards.

If a task provides motivation and offers immediate gratification - such as playing a video game - a person with ADHD will have no problem sticking with it. Give these kids a task for which there is no external reinforcement or payoff, however, and their persistence falls apart. They jump from one uncompleted activity to another and become bored and disengaged."
(Carol Brady, Ph.D., Robert M.A. Hirschfeld, M.D., Russell Barkley, Ph.D. - ADDitudemag)

"Clinical data indicate that executive function impairments are situationally-variable; each person with ADHD tends to have some specific activities or situations in which he/she has no difficulty in using executive functions that are significant impaired for him/her in most situations. Typically, these are activities in which the ADDer has a strong personal interest or about which he/she believes something unpleasant will follow quickly if he does not do the task right now."
(Thomas Brown, Ph. D. - ADDitudemag)


    Image Credit: The Crimson White

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) separates ADHD by the categories of Inattention, Hyperactivity, Impulsivity.

Click HERE for ADDitudemag.com's Checklist of 18 ADHD Symptoms.

In general, symptoms of ADHD manifest differently for every individual. How these symptoms present themselves as well as when they become a significant impairment (childhood vs. adolescence vs. adulthood) can vary greatly from person to person.

"Recent research has shown that many with ADHD function well during childhood and do not manifest any significant symptoms until adolescence or later, when greater challenges to executive function are encountered. Over the past decade research has shown that impairing symptoms of ADHD often persist well into adulthood. However, studies have also shown that some individuals with ADHD during childhood experience significant reductions in their impairments as they grow older."
(Thomas Brown, Ph. D. - ADDitudemag)

Research suggests that there are significant gender-related differences in the manifestation of ADHD. Girls are generally less impulsive and are more likely to exhibit the inattentive type of ADHD. Research also indicates that children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder or Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) are often likely to have a co-occurring diagnosis of ADHD.

    Image Credit: Silicon Valley Brain Spect Imaging, Inc. 

Unfortunately, there are still many misconceptions and myths about individuals with ADHD. It can be difficult to understand ADHD, as symptoms can vary greatly between individuals and change situationally. Many struggle to understand why someone with ADHD can maintain focus or "hyperfocus" on things that interest them, like video games, but have a hard time sticking with other things, like school work. This can lead to assumptions that the child is being "willfully disobedient" or lacking discipline. Dr. Robert Hirschfeld, M.D., describes his son's experience with ADHD and the common misconceptions that accompany ADHD:

"Unfortunately, when it comes to brain disorders, such as ADHD, depression, or other neurobiological conditions, a harmful attitude creeps in : the belief that attention deficit disorder, and other disorders originating in the mind, reflect 'bad character' and that all it takes is more willpower to overcome them.

As a psychiatrist, and also as the father of an ADHD child, I know how destructive this view is. Many people with depression suffer for years because they've tried to makes themselves feel better, and they still can't function. Coworkers and spouses become frustrated and blame the sufferer when attempts to 'jolly' a person out of a depression don't work. Their lack of understanding adds guilt and shame to the long list of problems that depressed people cope with.

My son could not will himself to not have ADHD. Trying to get him to change his ADHD behavior didn't work. And had we stopped at that, his life would have been marked by frustration and failure. Without proper medical, psychological, and educational interventions, no amount of willpower could have helped. Fortunately, our continued interventions enabled our son to share his own destiny and experience many successes."


    Image Credit: nwfdailynews

The primary treatment for ADHD is a combination of medication and therapy. Experts in the field agree that medication should be considered for children with ADHD, whose symptoms are interfering with social, emotional, or academic functioning. Types of behavior therapy and alternative treatments can be helpful in managing ADHD symptoms, however, they do not take the place of medication. Experts also agree that children should be told about their diagnosis. Often, many parents will ask the doctor to tell the child about ADHD and to answer any questions he/she might have. Keeping the diagnosis a secret does a disservice to the child, and ultimately communicates that there is something wrong with having ADHD. There are now a variety of books and resources (see the Resources section later on) for children newly diagnosed with ADHD. These materials can help further explain ADHD, answer questions, and normalize any feelings or worries they might have.

"'If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD and is struggling, he probably needs medication, '" says Stephen Copps, M.D., an ADHD specialist in Macon, Georgia. 'Medication is the cornerstone of therapy. It's appropriate for most children with diagnosable ADHD. It is not a last resort.'

Of course, it's essential that your child's diagnosis of ADHD is a reliable one. ADHD-like symptoms can be caused by a range of disorders, including anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. In some cases, a child's symptoms arise from the frustration associated with having to struggle with a learning disorder. 

Make sure the doctor uses the diagnostic criteria spelled out in the...Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, commonly referred to as the DSM-IV [note: the newest edition is the DSM-V]. The doctor should get input from your child's teacher as well as from you, his/her parents."
(ADDitudemag.com)


"Studies and Clinical trials have shown that ADHD medications give the following benefits to some children and adults: 
  • improve the working memory, classroom behaviors, the motivation to execute tasks, and to persist in solving problems
  • minimize boredom, distractibility when doing tasks, and emotional outbursts
  • increase test performance, rates of graduation, and other achievements that can have lasting effects
  • normalize structural abnormalities in specific brain regions"
(Thomas Brown, Ph. D. - ADDitudemag)


    Image Credit: ADDitudemag.com

What Can I do?
As a parent or teacher of a student with ADHD, it can be difficult to know how to best support the student and provide them with the tools they need to be successful. Certain behaviors associated with ADHD can be frustrating for parents and teachers trying to help, as well as the student, who may often face disappointment, shame, or negative self-esteem as a result of behaviors they cannot control.

Expert Advice:
"To help a child with ADHD complete work when there is little immediate reward or interest in the task, adults can establish artificial rewards to sustain motivation. Earning tokens, chips, or other external rewards will help them persist. Without such rewards, they cannot themselves must the intrinsic willpower to stick with a task. So, if your child with attention deficit disorder needs to read an entire chapter of a textbook, offer a reward for each segment of the work. Eventually, he will be able to sustain attention for longer periods, as tenacity becomes a habitual response to work."
(Russell Barkley, Ph.D. - ADDitudemag)

"Providing ADHD kids with structure--and supporting a habit of following that structure--helps them develop self-management skills that offset the impulse to veer off track. People with ADHD who never learn these skills are in for a bumpy ride. Dismissing typical ADHD behaviors as 'boys being boys' denies kids the help they need to become independent, responsible teens and adults."
(Carol Brady, Ph.D. - ADDitudemag)








ADDitudemag.com is a comprehensive resource for any parent, teacher, or professional working with a child that has ADHD. ADDitude Magazine has clear, user-friendly information and advice from experts in the field of ADHD and mental health practitioners. Parents can find parenting strategies, education and learning resources, first-person stories from individuals dealing with ADHD, online communities for parents to share tips and resources, and much more. Their free webinars offered are very informative and provide the newest information about treating ADHD from experts around the country: http://www.additudemag.com/webinars/

My Favorite ADDitude Articles for Parents and Teachers:

Classroom and School Accomodations for Children with ADHD

ADHD at School: Giving Instructions and Helping Children Follow Directions

ADHD Parenting Tips from an ADHD Coach

12 Parenting Strategies that Work for ADHD Kids

ADHD Secrets My Teacher (And Parent) Should Know











Image Credit: FTSI Connecting

Additional Resources

ADHD Webpage
Richard Lougy, MFT
http://www.thesekidsaredrivingmecrazy.com/
Free resources and professional services, for parents, teachers, and other caretakers of children with ADHD.

Books for Parents 

A New Understanding of ADHD in Children and Adults: Executive Function Impairments
Thomas E. Brown













The Gift of ADHD
Lara Honos-Webb

1-2-3 Magic
Thomas W. Phelan













Smart but Stuck: Emotions in Teens and Adults with ADHD
Thomas E. Brown, Ph.D.













Books for Children

The Survival Guide for Kids with ADD or ADHD
John F. Taylor













It's Hard To Be A Verb
Julia Cook 











Super Emotions! A Book for Children with ADD/ADHD
Lionel Lowry












Learning to Slow Down and Pay Attention: A Book for Kids about ADHD
Kathleen G. Nadeau

Friday, April 11, 2014

Wrapping Up Autism Awareness! Diana Patterson

Diana Patterson is a stay at home mom of a 12 year old step daughter, seven year old little girl and two year old son. Diana and her family have been a part of the NCS community since 2011.  Prior to staying at home Diana worked in the accounting industry.

First and foremost, we want to thank you for taking the time to read our blogs. Jenifer and I hope you enjoyed our writing. The idea of bringing autism awareness to Star Academy was exciting and a little nerve wrecking for the both of us. The support has been amazing! We hope that everyone took something from our information and personal stories.  


1 in 68 is the current statistic of children that fall on the autism spectrum. 1 in 48 boys to 1 in 189 girls are diagnosed in the U.S. Autism is a neurological disorder that causes, in varying degrees, difficulties in the following: verbal and nonverbal communication, social interactions, and repetitive behavior.  The exact cause of autism is still being researched, however there are possible causes including genetics, the environment or a combination of the two.  Autism treatment is available and early intervention is key for kids on the spectrum.  Please take some time to watch the two minute video below.  It’s based off the book Carly’s Voice; Carly invites you to experience Autism.   



Please feel free to contact either one of us with any questions regarding autism.  Please do not feel embarrassed or afraid to approach us.  We encourage anyone who is curious about the disorder, raising children on the spectrum, not sure what to tell someone who just had a child diagnosed, etc. to come and talk to us.  We would much rather have someone ask questions than to judge from afar because they don’t know the real story or truly understand the situation.  Autismspeaks.org also provides tool kits for friends and family.  These tool kits give information about the diagnosis and  and how to show support.  Click here to be redirected.

Lastly, we want to stress to everyone how much being educated about the disorder will lead to a better understanding and greater acceptance of all people with autism, as well as other differences or disabilities.  Our goal was to educate, in a general overview of a very complicated disorder, in order for you, the families of Star Academy, to then pass the information on to your children, in a way that you feel is appropriate, since acceptance and inclusion of everyone is such an important concept that needs to be taught to our children.  Bullying in this country has grown to outrageous heights.  If we can teach the importance of accepting everyone, differences and all, while children are young, hopefully we can prevent bullying in the future.


We plan to come full force next year, April of 2015, when Autism Awareness Month comes around again, with more fun and information.  BE READY!!!


Thank you for reading!!


Jenifer’s Contact Info:  jeniferpearsall@yahoo.com
Diana's Contact Info: dscastaneda@gmail.com

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Day in the Life of Eli: Diana Patterson

Diana Patterson is a stay at home mom of a 12 year old step daughter, seven year old little girl and two year old son. Diana and her family have been a part of the NCS community since 2011.  Prior to staying at home Diana worked in the accounting industry.


If you’re able to log on to a computer, navigate to this webpage, and read this blog; chances are it’s been a while since you were two years old. Okay, okay, I’ll speak for myself I don’t want to upset anyone.  If you’re like me, remembering what life was like at two might be a little hard.  I’ve included links at the end of the post to a what a typical day of a two year old looks like. For Eli, life since his diagnosis is completely different.  

Up until three months ago Eli would wake up multiple times a night.  He would always wake up crying at 6am on the dot.  Everyday the same thing, it would take two hours to put him to sleep at night. Then he would wake up at 2am and 4am. I tried different things in hopes that he would just sleep, wake up and lay in his bed till he heard someone wake up.  I was told by another therapist that occupational therapy would be beneficial for sleep.  Working with the OT we discovered that his body wasn’t self regulating so he needed to skip the nap during the day and light heavy work after he’s done with therapy to keep him going till he’s really tired and ready for bed at 8pm. This little adjustment has made a world of difference in Eli’s daily life.  The lack of sleep was creating other issues. Not to mention that if he’s not sleeping I’m not sleeping. That was not fun!



Nowadays Eli sleeps all night, wakes up, and on some days the hubby and I are awaken by his wonderful singing, counting or even whining. IT’S AMAZING!! I’m so relieved we have conquered this obstacle. Anyhow, he’s usually up by 6:30 am.  I come to get him and we head downstairs for some breakfast. Eli likes to count each step he takes as he’s walking down the stairs.  My poor husband is usually awaken by a toddler counting at the top of his lungs.   One of our next goals is to teach him what it means to quiet down.  So hopefully that gets better soon. 

Eli decides what he wants by pulling my hand and saying “come” takes me to the pantry and says “open” then he points to the candy jar and says “candy?” Something so simple as pointing does wonders for communication.  When Eli could not point he would climb the pantry shelves to get what he wanted.  He often scared the living daylights out of me when I would turn around and see him on the highest counter or shelf.  His determination is very inspiring and frightening all at the same time.  Breakfast is pretty smooth now. He doesn’t get candy for breakfast but that doesn’t stop him from asking. Hey, who can blame him, I’m sure if he asks the right person he’ll get it one day.  I won’t mention any names.  When the girls are ready we all get in the car and head to school.  We drop the girls off and rush back home for therapy which begins at 8am.


We let in our morning therapist and go upstairs to Eli’s room to get him dressed. Getting dressed is one of our current goals.  I pull out his outfit from the closet, new diaper, wipes, lotion and socks.  Typically by the age of three kiddos are dressing themselves and picking out their own outfits. That’s why you see little girls with sweatpants, tutus over the sweatpants, rainboots and a pink cardigan at a grocery store.  Kiddos at 2 ½ to three years old are becoming independent, know what they like and want to do mostly everything themselves. In this case, Eli will work on getting dressed every morning until eventually he can take his pj’s off and put on a new outfit.  This process requires focus, planning, problem solving so sometimes it can take months to master this skill.  Eli is making progress but focusing seems to be the toughest for him.  Once he’s dressed I leave and they continue working on his current goals until 9:30am.

At 9:30am Eli’s ABA therapist leaves and depending on the day of the week one of these three will show up for an hour: occupational therapist, speech therapist or developmental therapist. Then at 10:30 his ABA begins and ends at 4pm with a lunch break from 12-2pm.  At 2 ½  years old my baby boy is working everyday, six hours a day for 30 hours a week.  That is as much as, or a little more than, a typical kindergartener at age six! It took me a while to be okay with the idea of having my baby working all day long.  I mean when he first started he was just a little over two!  He should be sleeping in, having playdates, going to the library, going to the park.  Having fun, you know, like a two year old. I knew I needed to face reality and get with the program. The difference between Eli and a “typical” kid his age is that all the things that come easy to a “typical” kid is not easy for Eli so he has to spend all this extra time trying to catch up.  Eli needs to work hard now so he can eventually be at the same place the other kids are.


In seven short months Eli has made a HUGE improvement. He is a fast learner he can count to 20, knows some of his colors, and his drawing is so impressive!  I was fortunate enough to find the MIND institute where our family qualified and was chosen to participate in a study that will change what we know about the different types of teaching methods for kids on the spectrum.  I have the best of the best working with us to help Eli meet his goals and help him be a part of the community.  I won the ABA Therapy LOTTO!!!!  YAY!!! 

  
Thanks for joining me today and letting me share my story.  Please come back tomorrow and end the series with us as we share our final thoughts.  


A few links on a day in the life of a typical two year old: