Sunday, April 19, 2015

10 Life Lessons My Child with Selective Mutism Taught Me- Part 2

Last month, I shared a post about life lessons my son with Selective Mutism has taught me over the last eight years.  You can read that post here.  Today, I share the second part of this post.  These life lessons are things that I learned about my son as he struggles daily with Selective Mutism and also what I learned about myself.  My hope is that you be inspired and encouraged by reading "my story"!

Life Lessons Learned From My Son #6- #10

6. I'm stronger than you think-  Moms are protective of their children, but when you have a child with special needs, the urge to protect and shield your child is much stronger.  Having a child with an anxiety disorder who cannot talk at school makes him vulnerable.  He cannot stand up for himself, cannot tell the teacher he has to use the restroom, cannot express his feelings aloud whether he wants to laugh or cry.  As my child becomes older, I realize that he has an inner strength and perseverance AND that by being over protective I am doing him a disservice.  He has to learn how to find his voice, which will only come after he learns to apply his coping mechanisms.  

That's where I and the counselor come in. I cannot enable my child, but at the same time, I have to be his safe place, help him to apply coping mechanisms at home, and let him know that I believe in him.  Sometimes this means he will have to deal with uncomfortable situations and learn from them as we process afterwards.  It's a delicate balance.

7. Help me to cope, not avoid my anxiety-  This lesson ties in with the previous one.  When my son was first diagnosed with S.M., I had a strong, overpowering urge to shield my son from any situation that would make him anxious.  Had I really done that, we literally would have never left the house.  Ever.  He was three years old at the time and in preschool.  And, he was a typical preschooler in that he was just learning to control and understand his emotions.  At the time, he could not verbalize how he felt at school (other than he did not want to go) and could not explain why he did not talk at school.  Was I protective of him?  Yes!  And maybe a little too much.  

As the years progressed, I shifted my focus from how can I help him to avoid situations that will terrify him to how how can I help him cope before, during, and after the event.  Some of the coping strategies that we used were journaling (drawing pictures and later writing), praying, using pictures to communicate at school, lots of active play, breathing exercises, and stuffed animals and stress balls.

8.  I need multiple outlets in which to express myself-  I have three sons.  Two of them have used the arts in which to escape, express themselves, and to recharge.  Early on, I noticed that my youngest son had an affinity to music and art.  At home, he was constantly singing, dancing, and creating art projects. And he liked to do these activities by himself.  He was and is an introvert, and I scrambled to find ways to nurture and foster his interests.  

However, at school, art and music classes are not fun. Not at all. These classes are a little less structured and in music class, he is expected to sing aloud.  He used to lip sync but now, at least at concerts, he will not move his lips at all.  As with many kids with S.M., he doesn't want to draw attention to himself.  So, I learned quickly that I must find other outlets for him that he finds "safer". This includes allowing for messy arts and crafts projects at home and for taking music classes where I can be present. Sometimes just having me in the room is all that it takes for him to be secure.  And now, this summer he wants to take an art class where he knows he will be alone without me.  Yes!

9.  I want to go to parties, but they are so stressful!    Before my son was diagnosed, I could not understand why he did not want to attend birthday or Christmas parties- with or without me or his brother who is only fourteen months older than he.  What kid doesn't like to go to parties?

As a toddler and preschooler, he would scream, cry, throw a tantrum, and try to hide.  He would sob and beg for me to hold him. I had no idea he was terrified to be among strangers, especially children his own age that would most likely expect him to talk. 

Later, when he was in kindergarten, he was able to verbalize that he did not want to go to parties if his classmates would be there. He was terrified to speak or eat in front of them.  He could not engage in play.  So once I learned this, even if I didn't understand it, I needed to respect his feelings.  And help him grow to be more secure, to be in charge of his feelings, and to help him when he wanted to go to parties.  We started with both of us attending parties his older brother was invited to, and later he progressed to the point where he wanted to go to classmates' parties.  Now, he goes to parties without me, but still attends with his brother, as long as the parents are accepting of that.

10.  As with all children, maturity brings new insights-  When you read the research on S.M., the emphasis is on early treatment. If untreated, the anxiety will only get worse and will not just go away. Children with S.M. will grow into adults with S.M.  When you read this as a parent, you go into panic mode, or at least I did. 

And, you want a fix- a quick fix -STAT!  My son was in counseling and therapy when he was three.  However, after a year we stopped because having to travel a 3 hour round trip once or twice a week was too much for his school and my work schedules.  Then, the guilt started and then the worry that my child would remain this way forever.  I talked with other counselors and doctors.  I read books.  And I implemented all that I had learned and slowly, very slowly I started to see results.  Like, when his kindergarten teacher let me know that he was smiling in class AND raising his hand. That he whispered an answer in FRONT of the ENTIRE class! 

And from there, the progress started to snowball.  He is not finished growing yet.  In fact, at the age of eight, he has regressed somewhat, yet matured in other ways.  He can now verbalize his feelings, tell me exactly what it feels like at school (pounding heart, chest pain, a tight throat). He can rationalize more now that he is older and can use deep breathing on his own and troubleshoot how to communicate with his teacher (he writes her notes and whispers to her!).

So, just like my older son who has Aspergers, I know that throughout his childhood, there will be many ups and downs.  He will not just outgrow his diagnosis.  And his diagnosis does not and will not define or limit him.  It is my job to keep my eyes wide open because I really think my sons teach me a heck of a lot more than I teach them.

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

10 Life Lessons My Child With Selective Mutism Taught Me

If you have followed my blog for awhile, you know that a considerable part of my content deals with parenting issues, including my journey as a mother to a young child with Selective Mutism.  It has been five years since my youngest son was first diagnosed at the age of three.  Since that time, my son has made progress, had regressions, and has attended private school, has been home schooled, and is now a second grader in our local public school.

As I reflect on my son's growth and progress, I desire to bring hope to those who love a child with Selective Mutism.  It's a long, lonely, and painful journey, but there is much light at the end of the tunnel!

10 Life Lessons My Son Taught Me

1.  What you think you see may not be accurate-  You may see this and your heart breaks...

But, my child has taught me that the "S.M. stare" is his countenance whether he is feeling happy or extremely anxious on the inside. It's just part of his coping mechanism and does let me and his teacher know that he isn't quite in his comfort zone.  In addition, an observer may conclude that the child is sad and feels left out, but the child may prefer to be alone during non-structured times such as free play and recess.  For my son, it offers a respite from the classroom where he is expected to take part in small and whole group activities.  Like many children with S.M., he definitely has an introverted side to him.   Still, recess is hard for him and he does his own thing, BUT, he does not want to be approached or asked to join in play.  How do I know all this? Because he told me!

2. I will tell you how I feel when I am able to-  At the onset of S.M., my son was barely a preschooler.  Along with S.M., he had delayed speech and articulation difficulties.  He was also the youngest and had two older brothers to cater and speak for him.  So, verbal communication was not his strong point.  And besides, toddlers and preschoolers have little means to express how frustrated they are feeling besides the infamous tantrums.  Along came kindergarten and my son did not even want me to mention one.little.thing about his talking or lack there of.  Nada. Nothing.  He appeared to become angry and embarrassed.  At this time, he was in treatment with a psychologist at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and in speech therapy, plus in all day kindergarten. 

Looking back now, he was most likely on stimulus overload and under immense pressure.  It took awhile, but this mom finally learned that #1, I needed to back off, trust that my son would talk about his feelings when he wanted to and was developmentally mature enough to do so.  Kids with S.M. stress out when expected to talk whether it is by a parent or a teacher.  And #2, I need to be patient.  There is no quick fix to S.M. and sometimes a person is under so much anxiety that they don't really know how they feel other than yucky and uncomfortable.  What I did instead was be available to him when he did want to share and to love on him no matter what.

Now, at the age of 8, he freely talks a lot about his feelings, his frustrations from the day, his joys, and his discomfort with speaking (whispering) at school.  . Much of what I am writing about today is what he shared with me.

3. And speaking of patience, you will need LOTS of it-  I really thought that having three boys, one with Aspergers, being a teacher (I spent 14 years in middle school!), and life in general had prepared me to be patient.  Not so!  My youngest has taught me that I had more patience inside of me than I ever thought I had!  Most of the effective treatment for S.M. centers around desensitization which requires very small, baby, minute steps.  At times, I was overwhelmed and yes, I admit, impatient, that it took my son years to be able to whisper to his teacher.  And then, BOOM!, he regressed and wouldn't even whisper.  But. my sweet boy taught me that what he needs most is a reliably patient mom that rolls with it.  

4. Baby Steps is What It is All About-  Research shows that desensitization is the most effective way to treat S.M.  This is a fancy word for taking baby steps, breaking down the steps to attain a goal.  For example, when my son was three, the psychologist and I set a goal that my son would talk in the hallway at school (to reach a bigger goal of talking in the classroom).  Part of our "homework" was after school (I was fortunate enough to also teach at the school) I would get my son from his classroom and we would walk down the hallway to my classroom.  At first, we just walked and I would casually say that I hoped he had a good day. I did not ASK if he had a good day because I didn't want to pressure him to talk- at first.  The goal was to reduce the anxiety, not to set an expectation that he was to talk. 

 But then, we had to go w-a-y back even further because my son was not talking in the parking lot at school.  He would stop talking in the car as soon as we pulled into the parking lot.  We baby stepped it back to having his goal being to talk in the van while in the parking lot and then later to talk aloud in the parking lot as we walked toward the school doors.  Baby steps take time- months and even years and that is o.k.

5.  The Anxiety Doesn't Stop at the End of the School Day-  Just because the school day has ended ( school is a major cause of anxiety for children with S.M.) and we are at home doesn't mean my child is now free from tension and anxious feelings.  What my son taught me is that when he comes home, he needs time to decompress and release all the emotions he has stifled all day. Sometimes this may present as a temper tantrum, meltdown, chattering nonstop to me in a pleasant manner, fighting with his brother, or going outside to run and play.  He hasn't talked all day and when he was very young would barely smile.  Still to this day, he will not laugh aloud or cry out loud when hurt while at school.  Therefore, a hug from mom at the end of the day, goes a long way!

I'll be back next week to share my #6- #10 lessons learned.  In the meantime, do you have something you can share about your experiences or questions you have about Selective Mutism?  Please do so in comments!

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Friday, February 20, 2015

Reading Strategies and Genres: Fairy Tale Posters

As a classroom teacher, reading specialist, and literacy coach, I have worked with students and teachers from preschool to grade 12.  Back in the early 1990’s, I began my research and application of what we called active reading strategies:  summarizing, predicting, evaluating, reviewing, connecting, inferring, questioning, visualizing, determining main idea, and synthesizing.  At present, these are often called reading comprehension strategies or cognitive strategies.

My resource, Fairy Tale Reading Comprehension Posters was created when I needed a visual reminder for students in  my reading intervention groups and when I was modeling lessons in teachers’ classes. Created specifically for grades K-2, you can use them with older students as well.  I used them on my Focus Wall, bulletin board, and magnetic white board.  I laminated the entire set, added magnetic strips to the back, and kept them on the side of my filing cabinet (which faced toward the students) when not in use.  This way, they were always visible to students and easily accessible to me!

Genre Poster

Comprehension Poster

I suggest printing on card stock, laminating, and placing magnetic strips on the back.  Use during instruction to help students anchor their learning of a simple, kid-friendly definition for each strategy /reading comprehension skill.  Hopefully most students are familiar with fairy tales and the pictures can help as a concrete example and reminder. 

As a classroom teacher and specialist, I used these posters!  The possibilities are endless!  To purchase your set, click here.

AND, I have a FREEBIE for you!  For those working on summarizing the story, download this organizer that coordinates with the poster set.  I created this for my 2nd grade son when he was struggling to write a summary paragraph and needed a bit more scaffolding.


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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Winter Wonders! Writing Into the New Year! Prompts for Little Writers

Welcome to the Winter Wonders blog hop hosted by the authors at Adventures In Literacy Land.  We are so excited to have you join us as we celebrate our first year blog anniversary!

 One year ago today, a group of teacher-bloggers launched the website Adventures in Literacy Land to share tips and tools for effective literacy instruction.
In honor of reaching our first full year of blogging together we are hosting a Winter Wonders Blog Hop and Birthday Celebration.   Each author has a FREE  literacy resource for you to download.

At the end of the hop, don't forget to enter a raffle for a chance to win a Barnes and Nobles gift certificate!

The freebie that I have for you is a sampler pack from my January Writing Prompts that I have listed in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

Click the above picture to download your FREEBIE!

I view a writing journal as a place where students can safely take risks, experiment with new vocabulary, sight words, spelling words, grammar skills, and writing techniques.  It is not my journal, but the student's and becomes more of a writer's notebook as the year progresses.  I do not grade journals, but I do monitor them, walking around the room as my littles are writing and will have students bring the journal to Guided Writing or Writer's Workshop conferences.  I want students to have an invested interest and complete ownership of the journal.  If I provide too much structure and hover over their every writing move, I will not accomplish this goal.

The journal, without me formally grading the entries, provides an effective assessment tool.  When I conference with a student or when I casually glance at entries, I can discern strengths and weaknesses.  For example, if I give students a prompt, I may also ask students to use a word or words from our word wall, a few spelling words, or for older kids a metaphor. This is better than any test!  For, if my goal in teaching students spelling words is for students to use the word correctly and spell it accurately in their writing (applying the skill), the journal provides a much more authentic assessment tool.

Making the journal fun is a must!  I like to give my students fun, motivating prompts and also allow for free writes.  When I taught the intermediate and middle grades, I always had a "Free Write Friday", which was wildly popular with students because they had complete choice in what they would write about that day.  These free write days also allowed me to see which students struggled with choosing a topic to write about and allowed me to address this in Guided Writing groups or in Writer's Workshop.  Writers in the primary grades also like to have choice in what they write about!

I included a variety of writing prompts in this sampler packet so you can see the variety of forms ( stories, lists, etc.) and the level of difficulty.  Not all prompts require the same writing skills and you can pick and choose which prompts to use depending on the writing abilities of your students.  As well, you may find that the prompts are too difficult for kindergarten students, or that you will have to guide and scaffold the writing.

My intent was to make this packet as flexible as possible for you to use.  Enjoy!

Click the button below to go to your next stop where Emily has another fabulous FREEBIE for you!


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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Reindeer Reading: Informational Reading for Primary Grades

It's all about reindeer today!  I am linking up with my friend, Carla, from Comprehension Connection!  I will be showcasing my Reading Reindeer literacy resource that I have available in my little TpT store.  But, make sure you click the link below to read about other reindeer activities including FREE ones, suggested reading, crafts, and more!

My children have inspired me and motivated me to be a better mom and teacher.  The youngest two are my guinea pigs when creating new items for my students.  Recently, when I realized that they thought reindeer were imaginary creatures, my latest product was born!  Now, not to dis Rudolph, but I thought it would be fun to create a nonfiction packet about these very interesting creatures.  We all know that boys love nonfiction reading and all students, at least mine, enjoy reading about animals.

My Reindeer Reading packet includes an original three page nonfiction/ informational article about reindeer:  what they look like, what they eat, and where they live. My children were excited to learn they live in Alaska.  My husband went to Alaska last fall on mission's trip with our church. Sadly, he did not see any reindeer in the wild!

Informative Article- Includes three pages!

My boys were peeking over my shoulder as I created this packet that is filled with graphic organizers, vocabulary cards, and writing activities.  Although the reading level is too difficult for my youngest, the oldest (reads at Guided Reading Level of H/I) was able to read it with support.

Before reading activities include a K-W-L organizer (shown above), A Can, Have, Are chart, and vocabulary cards  (Tier 3 words) to assess prior knowledge.  The three pages are perfect to use in Guided Reading or even in a center if students can complete the reading independently with little scaffolding.  I added thinking prompts at the end of each page to prompt for active reading.  Also perfect to use in science class to integrate reading and writing with the content areas!

After reading students complete their reindeer book to record the main idea and important details.  As well, there is a narrative prompt and three different stationery sheets to complete the final copy.

There is a lot more in this literacy packet!  With a total of 20 pages, it is enough for one week of instruction for your high level first graders and on-level 2nd or 3rd graders.  When writing and designing the unit, I implemented the CCSS, the reading process, and best practices to use to engage, motivate, and to foster higher level thinking skills in my little readers.  There is no crafty component to this because when I pull out readers it is for either intervention or enrichment, and I simply do not have time, as I'm sure you can relate to!  I used this activity with high level first graders and used it in a highly structured and scaffolded small group with struggling second graders.

You can check out the packet and see more details here.  Don't forget the check out the other bloggers who have linked up to share their reindeer highlights.  Click the linky picture at the top of this post.


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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Back To School: Sales, Giveaways, and New Beginnings!

The time is near, my friends!  Some of you may have already started your brand new school year. Others may have another few weeks to make summer memories, prepare classrooms, and sleep in!  As for me, I am homeschooling my youngest year-round, while my middle son goes back to school in just (22) days!  And my oldest son turns (21) this month and is preparing to leave for Basic Training for the Army National Guard in a few months!

A new school year is all about new beginnings. A fresh start.  And then there is school shopping!  I don't think that I will ever lose my excitement for back to school shopping whether it be new crayons, backpacks, lunchboxes, books, and of course classroom decor and  curricular materials!

Speaking of curriculum, you are probably already aware that Teachers Pay Teachers is having their annual Back to School SALE  August 4-5.  My store is already on SALE with 20% off ALL items today.  If you need something for tomorrow, you can grab it now!  Starting tomorrow, August 4th, use coupon code BTS14 to get a total of 28% off ALL of my items!

Some of My Favorite Printables:

I also have writing prompts for September and other months. Click here to see all of them.

This is my #1 best seller that I use!

Have the First Day Jitters? Check out this literacy packet for use with your little ones:

 And, you don't wast to miss this one:  Wouldn't you love to win an iPad Mini?  What a way to kick-off the new school year! Don't forget to enter the iPad Mini GIVEAWAY that I am participating in along with (20) other bloggy friends. Click the pic below to enter!

And speaking of new beginnings, I am so, so excited to be part of the Jamberry team as an Independent Consultant!

Later this month, I will blog about why I started, all the benefits, and how I NEVER did my nails until I discovered Jamberry Nail Wraps!  Here's the short version:  in just (2) weeks as a consultant, I made enough money to take my son BTS shopping!

If you would like a FREE sample nail wrap, please click below to complete the Google Doc, and I will mail out your sample along with information for application.

If you have already purchased a Jamberry Nail Wrap, you know that it is LOVE at first sight!  My customers are telling me:  "I applied my Jams last night, and now I'm totally hooked!"

If you want to check out the current spring/summer catalog click here to visit my website.  You have until August 31 to order any of the wraps you see.  After that, the online catalog will be replaced with the fall collection.

AND, there are many~ (138) current wraps that are being retired and will NOT be available again- EVER after August 31.  Click the pics below to view all 138 wraps that will be gone forever after August 31.

You can order directly from my website.  If you are at all interested in hosting a Facebook party (where I do all the work, we play games, I have giveaways, and YOU can earn FREE wraps), click here.

If you want to take the plunge and become a consultant, I would love, love to have you on my team that also has many other teachers and mamas!  I will support you every step of the way on your new adventure.  Click here to view the details.

If you have any questions, please ask, and I will be happy to help!  Teachers love Jamberry- me included!

A new school year and new beginnings can be a little daunting, but I say BRING IT ON!

May you have a restful and relaxing Sunday!

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