Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Learning to Prepare Food

Have you heard this cry for help? I'm hungry! Is that really a call for help? Yes it is if the child is too young or has not been taught how to fix something to eat. One step to helping a child be self sufficient is making sure he can "fend for himself" in the kitchen for at least a meal or two. This doesn't need to be extravagant food. It can be super simple. It will take work even for the easiest food preparation. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Start with a few ideas such as a peanut butter or a turkey and cheese sandwich. A couple of microwave options might be good to include.

If you need some help breaking down the steps in teaching how to make a sandwich, here is a visual resource.


Another great resource is the Special Chef. There are visuals and lists for supplies and the process.


It is important to teach your child how to use the microwave, stove and oven. The microwave is probably a good first step. It is important that he knows how to use the time as well as the microwave itself. He will need directions on how long to cook various items. Help your son/daughter to know where to find the information needed to "microwave" some food.

It may be very helpful to have a list of easy to fix items so a child doesn't have to think so hard about what to fix. He probably needs to save his energy for the steps it take to make food. If he/she is heating a prepackaged food like pizza rolls, make sure he knows he needs to read the package directions instead of asking you. He can ask you if he can't figure it out but learning information seeking skills is so very vital to later independence.


Monday, October 24, 2016

How to Regroup for the Rest of the Semester

When things are not going well, what is a parent's response? What if some things are going well but others are not? There are many ways to react?


  1. Ignore it and hope the troubles will go away. I would not recommend this. I have not seen things get better with this approach.
  2. Over- react to the situation. This can take several forms. One is anger at either the child, the teacher or both. It can result in depression because your own perceived shortcomings. If only I would of done a better job of ............. I would not recommend this reactive strategy because it usually does not help.
  3. Begin where you are to seek solutions to change the trajectory. This may involve conversations with everyone involved. The older the child, the more he should be involved. This is just the first step in the problem solving process.
Next week, let's begin looking at the process of problem solving difficulties at school. As a parent, you are equipped to lead the charge in this process. You really are! Please join me for this series.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Learning to Do Hard Things

How do you teach a child to do hard things? One step at a time! I have been struck with the advice that a well known diet center's commercial teaches, "Take the first step!" There is so much wisdom in that advice. It may be down right scary. It may be uncomfortable. I can guarantee that it's a non preferred activity. There is no way to conquer these things if a child doesn't step out and try to do "that thing" she thinks is impossible. As a mother, I have heard every excuse why my child says he/she can't do it. I have done the same thing.

I try to avoid what I view as unpleasant. It's only natural. Many times, I was encouraged by someone else to "step out of my comfort zone." Have you noticed certain behaviors your child displays to avoid taking that first step? Does he ignore your "helpful hints? Does she procrastinate? Is there arguing? Does your child try to bait you to try to take the emphasis away from the first step? Do you take "the bait?"

What does your child need to take the first step in doing hard things? She may need support. For some, it may be encouragement . "I believe in you! You are going to do great!" The task may be overwhelming so it may need to be broken down with some extra assistance."Let's clean you room together. Pick up all the trash on this side of the room. I will do the other side of the room and we will meet in the middle of the room." It may take incentives. "I know you don't want to do this but if you do it before the timer rings you may have 10 extra minutes on your video game tonight."

The hardest part of this is two-fold....finding a powerful motivator that makes a child WANT to do hard things and parents that are consistent. I struggled to get a child to do something out of his comfort zone unless there was a highly motivating reason to do so. At my house, this usually involved technology! I also needed to be consistent with what I expected. If I was "soft" and said, "I will do it for you this time", there would be whining whining and fighting over it next time. This includes giving in and giving the reward just to be nice without requiring her to "do the hard thing." I learned this lesson the hard way!

Teaching a child to do hard things is a vital stepping stone to independence. It may be hard on the mommy and daddy to be "therapeutic parents" but the end result will be worth it


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Independence in Packing Lunch

A student with a disability needs to know how to go through the steps it takes to eat a meal as an independent or semi independent adult. This begins with the task of shopping and food preparation broken down in many steps.

One of the first things I taught my son was how to pack his own lunch. I simplified the task greatly. I did not get zip lock bags out to put various snacks in. My son had prepackaged snacks to put in a disposable lunch sack. Keeping track of a lunch box or reusable containers was just not going to work if I wanted him to be independent. He was probably going to eat a yogurt cup, a individually wrapped beef stick or a cheese stick for his protein. He was 't going to make or eat a sandwich for lunch everyday and find a sandwich bag to put it in. This was NOT GOING TO HAPPEN unless I wanted to get a job coach for packing a lunch. Everything needed to be easy and disposable. He was going to have a hard enough time remembering to put lunch in his backpack on his own!

Besides the easy prep items for lunch, it is important to have a visual support to help your child know what to put in his lunch.

Choose One ITEM

From Each Group

1. Protein

2. Fruit

3. Vegetable

4. Grain/salty

5. Treat

Have a basket/container labeled with category filled with acceptable items. This is a starting place. It is independence with organizational support. It is a way to begin teaching a child to take care of his own meal preparation.

It would be much easier to pack it for your child but try to resist this temptation. It will be a lot more work to set up this system and slowly take away some of the supports allowing a child to orchestrate the lunch packing system alone. This is how he will learn first steps in taking care of his food/eating needs.


Monday, October 17, 2016

Prepare For Parent-Teacher Conferences

It's time for fall conferences. School conferences call be very enlightening. Almost too enlightening. It bursts a parent's bubble when they hope school is going well but find out the opposite. It also can be encouraging if school is going well. There are times that a parent can leave a conference quite bewildered. "What was that all about?" I especially find this with "student led" conferences. The student shows different samples of work. Often the teacher has a self assessment or "what about me" page that the student has filled out. I leave these conferences having no idea what the student is really doing at school.

How do I make the most of the conference? Conferences are designed by school personnel and are different depending on those organizing them. Conferences may change formats from year to year so it's always important to figure out what kind of information you, as the parent, want and prepare a list of questions. To get the information wanted, ask very specific questions. If you don't have time for your questions due to the teacher's agenda, schedule another time to meet for your questions to be addressed.

What kind of questions? That depends, but here are some categories to help think this through.

  • Behavior (in class, in non structured environments, in specials)
  • Focus and Attention (getting to work, completing work, listening)
  • Individual Academic Areas
  • Classroom Skills(following directions, working independently)
  • Organization and following Classroom Routines
  • Interactions with peers and staff
  • Social skills
  • Fine motor and its effect in other areas
  • Does he seek information when he doesn't understand

Preparation is always a key. It's hard to think of all of your questions in the moment so a written or digital list may help. It 's good to take a some paper to take notes. It is easy to write notes on some of the papers given but they can get lost or misplaced where a notebook is a little easier to keep information in a central place.

Conference time is an important event. A little preparation can make the time more valuable. Teachers really don't always know what a parent is most interested in. The easiest way to get the information you want is to ask very specific questions.

Let the preparations begin!!


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Next Steps Toward Empty Nest

My son wanted me to help him through situations that caused anxiety. I was the resident problem solver. It was stressful for him (and for me) when I had to push him away from the comfort he had when I solved his problems. His world needed to expand. He did not want it to expand. It started with a lot of redirection. I can remember when he called me from school to solve an issue and I told him to go see the counselor or his TAG teacher and ask for help. The ability to seek out help is a critical skill a child must learn in order to go off to college or live on his own.

A child may find it very difficult to seek help. One aspect that may need extra instruction is in communication. Does your child know how to articulate her wants, needs and frustrations in the situation where she needs problem solving help? This may take walking a child through a script. I might say, " Go to Mrs. Miller and tell her that you are confused about what will happen at the homecoming assembly for those on the court? Do You have to say anything? What should you wear? Tell her you are nervous because you don't know what to expect." This is a first step. There may be push back from your child. It will require you to be calm and very convincing. There needs to be consistency. At times, it may seem like it is too hard. You will want to give up. I know I have felt that way many times. It may be three steps forward and two steps backwards on many days. If you find the process excruciating, you are in good company. I have felt that way so many times. Try to stay encouraged with any steps forward. This is a tough road but it is the way of independence in the future.

I am here to cheer you on. I would love to hear your story.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Simplifying Life Skills

What are some skills that kids need before leaving home? How does a parent teach these? Is there a way to simplify them? I have thought about this in the last few years. I have tried lots of things with my son. Some have worked and many have not. Things I thought ere important to teach, I have disregarded as unnecessary.

Two things a person must have is food to eat and clean clothes to wear. Kitchen and laundry skills must be learned before a child leaves home. Even if a child diagnosed with special needs lives in a supported environment after high school, these activities must be done in daily life. The more she knows about these areas of daily living skills, the greater likelihood of independence. He also needs to know how to purchase items, manage money/banking plus pay bills. How can a parent teach everything a child needs to know in a complete but simple way. How can a child stay organized, remember to complete all the steps in a skill and be totally independent?

Over the next few weeks, let's look at all of these. Next week we'll begin with kitchen skills. Let me know if you have other daily skills that could be included in this series.