Wednesday, May 23, 2012

School's Out ~ Seize the Day!

Well, I'm updating my blog so it must be summer!  Not quite yet for me, but the student's last day was today and the feeling of freedom is in the air.  I felt compelled to write tonight because now is not the time for procrastination people!  Tomorrow morning when your children finally wander into the kitchen, groggy and smiling from getting the chance to sleep in on a weekday, don't forget that this is your perfect opportunity to see what makes your child tick. No doubt you've turned around, the school year is already over, and your child has grown and changed right before your eyes. Decide today that you will take some time to reconnect and find out what interests your child.  Then use those interests to plan activities together that will bring you closer. You might also work together to plan something new that you both would like to try.  No pressure, but if you don't do it today, you will turn around and the school supplies will be back out at Target.  Believe me, the years fly by so quickly, take every opportunity you have to positively connect with your kids.  Seize the day!

Friday, October 14, 2011

REACH is a Verb

The dictionary defines reach as "to stretch out or put forth, to touch or grasp, to succeed in getting in contact with or communicating with".  It is a verb - an action. I started researching this because I am blessed to be a part of a group called Reach Them to Teach Them.  In a nutshell, our mission is to remind those who play a role in the lives of children of the tremendous influence that they have and of the amazing privilege they have to affect the lives of those children.  In this day and age of standardized test scores and social challenges, we work to help motivate and keep the spark alive in educators and others who work with children by providing motivational events and materials.  As I was thinking about this concept of "reaching" our children, I was reminded that to reach something we must take action - make a move. 

Let's take this as an example (mostly because I haven't had breakfast yet and we seem to all be able to relate to food analogies!).  I can walk through the grocery store, look at the bananas, smile and think about how they would make a delicious banana pudding.  But unless I actually reach out and pick them up, put them in my cart, buy them, take them home and put some time into making the pudding, it will never happen.  It's the same with our children.  Unless we actually make a conscious effort to see our children, reach out and connect with them, invest our time and heart into creating something wonderful, we might as well just be passing by.  Think about those children in your life. It may be your own children, it may be your students, it may be your Sunday school class - whatever opportunities you have throughout your day to connect with kids. Are you really making an effort to reach them?  Are you taking action to move toward connecting and communicating with them so that they can truly feel that you care about them and who they are becoming?  Reaching our kids is critical and the payoff is priceless!  Take time today to think about how you can reach those children in your life.  Take action!  Invest some time and heart and create something wonderful!

PS:  You can visit our website at   

Thursday, October 13, 2011

S.L.O.W. Down!

I'll admit it.  I'm a busy girl.  I like having something to do and rarely sit still.  I have lovely furniture that I only sit on when my in-laws visit and closets and drawers that inevitably need to be cleaned out.  Our family is in constant motion like little gyroscopes rotating around each other, sometimes together sometimes separately, but always moving.  That's why today I turned around and it's already mid-October.  I haven't touched this blog (which is one of the things I really enjoy) since school started and they've already started putting out the Christmas trees at Target. And I don't even want to think about the amount of fast food that my family has consumed since August.  Sound familiar?  I'm sure that my crazy life is not so different from yours.  That's why I’m sending out a desperate plea for us all - SLOW DOWN! 

This morning while on Fall Break with my family in one of my favorite locations on the planet, I found myself in a rare, but wonderful position. It was a beautiful morning and we were sitting around the table eating breakfast on the porch while everyone chatted and planned the day.  I was enjoying my third cup of coffee (not in a 'to go' cup) and taking time to literally drink in the moment.  I noticed that my fifteen year old needs to shave and that my thirteen year old’s voice is starting to change.  As I listened to them talking and laughing with their friends, I realized that life is zooming by and that I so rarely stop to enjoy the moment.  I need to SLOW DOWN -and not just on school holidays or when I think I have time, but every day.  What kind of example am I setting for my children?  That it's ok to live life based on a day planner?

Realistically, I know myself and know that in order to do this I am going to need some reminders.  Maybe a picture of a turtle on the fridge or more likely a programmed text alert that arrives at a specific time each day.  Whatever it takes, I will slow down. I have to. In fact, let's ALL slow down.  Let's send a message to our kids that says that stopping every once in a while is just fine; in fact it's a really good idea!  We'll call it "S.L.O.W. - Stopping to LIVE in Our World".  Are you in?  Let's commit today to slow down and enjoy the things around us - our families, our friends, our surroundings, our creative thoughts.  Whatever brings joy to your life - SLOW DOWN and enjoy it today. I'll bet that you, and those around you, will be glad you did!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Sharing Their Interest

Last night I sat around with other "speech nerds" and talked for hours about any and everything related to speech pathology.  Any one else around would have been bored to tears, but we had a ball!  Why?  Because we had a shared interest, our conversation went on well into the night.  Consider this scenario.  You walk into a party where you know no one.  One group is talking about the history of world religion in the 1900s and another group is talking about which singer they liked best on last night's reality television show.  Which one are you going to feel most comfortable to approach?  Unless you are up on your history, I'm pretty sure you're heading to the group where you might have something to contribute.  Our quality of interaction and conversation is better when we share interest with others.  We would all feel more a part of the party if we were able to interact on a level we were comfortable with.  Now let's think of this in the context of our children.  Do your children jump right into a conversation about your love of broccoli or, even better, the school summer reading list?  I'm guessing probably not.  But what if you went over while they're playing "Zombie Aliens" and asked them about the game?  You're probably going to get more interaction there!  Take some time today to watch and see what your children are interested in ~ what they are choosing to do for fun.  Then share that interest for a few minutes and see what happens.  What you should see is a longer interaction with your child. Even if your child doesn't yet have words, just showing that you are interested in something they are lends value to the quality of the interaction.  Commit some time today to share some interests with your child.  Remember, everyone wants to be part of the party!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Practice Persistent Listening

Last night as I was finally heading to bed, my sweet little four-legged friend, Gladys, had another idea. Apparently she had no idea how tired I was!  As I began to turn off lights she followed my every move staring up at me until I stopped to figure out what she needed.  Going through the list of usual needs in my head, I worked through each one until I figured out what she needed.  I knew I wasn't going to get any sleep until I figured it out.  She was so persistent in communicating to me that she needed something, that I began to think about how this relates to our children.  When they are babies and don't have the ability to "tell" us with words what they need, we are so persistent in trying to figure it out.  There's no stopping a mom until she figures out what will make that little one happy again!  But I started to wonder at what point we stop being so persistent in trying to understand what our children are really saying to us?  Kids have a lot to say and they are pretty persistent with us in trying to get their point across.  Sometimes they use words, sometimes they use behaviors, sometimes their mood, sometimes by their lack of communication ~ but always the communication intent is there.  A statistic I love is that over 70% of behaviors we see in children are rooted in communication.  They're talking, but are we listening to understand?  To encourage our kids, no matter what age or ability, to keep communicating with us, we have to maintain that persistence that we had with them as babies.  We must be persistent in trying to understand what they are saying to us.  Try today to REALLY listen and understand what your child is saying to you ~ whether it's with words or actions. Gladys taught me a great lesson last night about that.  I hope you can learn from it too!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Take a Virtual Vacation ~ It's Free!

Are you watching the neighbors load the car and secretly wishing you were the ones going on vacation?  Are the kids bored with the usual summer activities and ready to do something new?  Well, take a Virtual Vacation!  You can leave tomorrow!  One of the wonderful advantages of the Internet is the connection it gives us to people and places all over the world within seconds.  So sit down with your family and take a trip.  I've given you a link to your travel documents, so you're ready to go.  Just pick your location, how you will get there, where you will stay, where you'll eat, what you'll do, etc. etc. etc.  You are only limited by your own imaginations!  You can go wherever you like and stay as long as you want.  Your kids won't even know that they are using sequencing, organization and problem-solving skills or that they are using that dreaded "math" to figure out a budget for the trip.  This vacation is fun and free and you don't have to board the dog or have your neighbor get your mail.  And best of all ~ you can go again and again and again .....

Please share where your family went on your Virtual Vacation.  Bon voyage!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What is "Normal" Anyway?

Websters defines "normal" as 'the usual, average. or typical'.  Personally, I don't think I could or would even try to label anyone or anything as "normal" in today's world.  And quite frankly, isn't "normal" a little boring anyway?  Recently, I had a wonderful experience that challenged my view of "normal" and should yours too. On one of the first weekends of the summer, my boys and I headed to the mountains as counselors and mentors for a camp for middle and high school students with autism. The camp serves to provide these students with a typical camp experience with activities such as horseback riding, hiking, archery, rock climbing, swimming and canoeing.  As an educator who has worked with children on the autism spectrum for over 20 years, there are some facts I felt I knew well.  Such as ~ students with autism may have challenges with communication and social skills; they may have difficulty handling sensory stimulation and they really like routines.   Pair that with a weekend in the mountains with over 60 children, 90 degree temperatures, bunk beds in a cabin, a shared bathroom, a varied daily routine, all kinds of flying things buzzing around, different foods in a noisy mess hall, wearing a name tag, and exposure to LOTS of new expectations.  A recipe for meltdown for sure!  Right?  Let's just say I had my doubts about how this was going to go and had prepared myself for whatever I might have to handle as a counselor.  But guess what?  I didn't witness one major or minor "meltdown" the entire weekend!  What I saw instead were kids singing karaoke, kids having a water balloon fight, kids putting on a harness and climbing a rock wall, kids canoeing around a lake, kids making s'mores around a campfire, kids laughing and running and trying new things just like "normal" campers would.  All of these children handling all kinds of sensory input, navigating social challenges with peer mentors, and 'going with the flow' of a new routine.  I don't think I stopped smiling or laughing all weekend, and my boys made comments like "I wish John went to my school.  We would be good friends." or "Did you see Sarah climb that wall?  She was amazing!".  As I began to reflect on the weekend, I started wondering what was different?  What made this weekend, which should have been immensely challenging for these kids, so "normal" for them?  My conclusion is that they were all allowed to be the unique individuals that they are and were embraced for the little "quirks" that they had.  For that weekend, it didn't matter if a child carried around an elephant or if another child had to have his salad in a green bowl.  Everyone was given permission to be themselves and it worked!  This camp was one of the most "normal" experiences I've had in a long time.  I think there's a lesson in there for all of us, don't you?  So, what is "normal" anyway?  Personally, I'm not really looking for it!  I think that normal is way overrated and much less exciting.  Who's with me? :-)