Archives for October 2013

Traveling with Children, a little prep goes a long way

About a year ago my family and I were taking a weeklong trip for my sisters wedding. The packing was very intense because we had to be prepared for both casual and formal activities for almost two weeks. We were all in the wedding! I thought the packing was the biggest task set before us in preparation for leaving. A few days before we left my partner and I found ourselves refereeing a “mild-confrontation” between our children at a restaurant. We looked at each other and thought about how frustrating our travels were about to be if this scenario were to ensue at the airport, on the plane, or at the wedding. We decided to have a few “real-time” conversations with the kids about airplane etiquette, manners, and general expectations for our pending trip. Wow! What a difference a conversation (and some “mild bribery”) can make. The children were complimented by strangers at the airport as well as family and friends at the wedding.

As Thanksgiving nears, and many families make travel plans, I would like to share a resource that will support successful family travel.  Traveling with children young and old goes best with some preparation, planning, and a positive outlook. So, what do you need when you take children on a trip? Lots more than booster seats, first aid kits, and travel games! Check out this two-page publication, brought to you by Parentingpress.com, so you can download it before you go—or when you need some help en route.

It includes reminders about working with children to set realistic expectations, practice basic courtesy, and agree on safety precautions. You’ll also find helpful tips on avoiding problems and on handling the meltdowns that do occur.

Happy travels and let the compliments roll!!!

 

ipads, ipads Everywhere…

Technology surrounds us whether we want it to or not. Most of the time it is useful and enhances our daily lives to some degree and at times we are barely aware of it. But the debate surrounding ipads in our local schools is causing me to consider the question, “How much technology is too much?”

Some of our locals schools are part of a program called 1:World. This program provides an ipad for every child at the school. In many instances the ipad will be able to travel to and from school with the child. At first glance, I understand this to be a wonderful opportunity for ALL students to have access to the technology that, in many circumstances, is accessible only to the select families that can afford it. But lately I have been hearing some parents in the communities offering this program speak out about their concerns regarding the program and its design. In particular, some concerns include:

  • the remote access that the teachers will have
  • the liability involved in giving students such technology
  • the lack of understanding the educational purpose for the technology
  • the lack of parental controls allowed on the devices
  • the shift in funding from hiring teachers to purchasing ipads (the ipads are funded with grant money but many parents would still like to see teachers hired instead of ipads)
  • the insurance fee parents must pay associated with the use of the device (there may be financial support for families that can’t afford the insurance fees)

I am sure as this program gets rolling there will be added concerns and more conversations to follow. Change is rarely without controversy. Remember when televisions first appeared in the home? T.V.s were labeled “The Devil” by many (that continues today to a lesser degree). In short, much of these conversations are to be expected. But I still find myself asking, “What do I need to do as a responsible parent?”, “How do I become informed enough to be comfortable with this trend?”

First, I have engaged in several conversations about these issues with: my partner, other parents that I trust, and school and district staff. I have attended meetings where concerns about the 1:World program has been openly discussed and questions have been answered by school and district staff.

I have not concluded that this is a perfect program. I still continue to raise my own concerns and plan to actively seek answers. But for the time being I have become keenly aware of the conundrum that I find myself (and many other parents) in. While we (parents) want our students to have access to technology because we recognize the seemingly endless learning and creative opportunities associated with technology, many of us have reservations when we feel our control over our children’s access to, and use of, technology is limited or challenged. We fear the risks, even when we are not clear as to exactly what they may be. So how do we move forward toward accepting, end eventually embracing, the inevitability of technology permeating our lives and our children’s lives?

The first thing parents can do is stay informed. Talk to each other. Ask questions. Be present. When your child brings home the device be aware of how your child uses it. Talk to your child about what they do with the devices in at school and what the expectations are for at-home use of the devise. Handle the devise yourself. Even though the device is issued by the school, parents should be able to operate it. Always know your child’s passcode. This should be a standard parental expectation for all devices in the home. At first, parents can require that their student use the device in their presence, like the family room or kitchen rather than alone in the child’s bedroom with the door closed. Watch as your child uses the devise, ask questions about what they are doing and ask if it is helping them learn and why.

All of these suggestions should help parents feel more comfortable and engaged enough to monitor, or at least be aware, of their student’s use of the ipads they are given by the school. If something should happen that you feel uncomfortable with, take responsibility and inform the school and district staff immediately. Parents should always consider their children’s safety a priority, especially when engaging in technology. Technology advances faster than we can keep up with it and there are new, and often questionable, ways to interact with technology discovered daily. Our ability to stay informed will help keep our students safe while give them  access to trending technology and opportunity and support our schools as we try to negotiate the world of advancing technology.

Nurse’s Thoughtful Parenting Helps Prevent Tragedy

At the end of the 2012-2013 school year, the strong and trusting relationship that Leslie Templeton had built with her 17 year old son, a student at West Albany High School, saved the community of Albany, Oregon from tragedy.  Below is a story from the Samaritan Health Services, “Well Informed Employee Newsletter” about the events that led to Leslie informing the police that a classmate of her son’s was potentially going to attack West Albany High School.  We applaud you, Leslie, you are a role model to all parents!  

NURSE’S THOUGHTFUL PARENTING HELPS PREVENT TRAGEDY

When Leslie Templeton’s son came home from school one week in May, the mother of two followed her usual routine of asking her son how his day was and what he and his friends were up to at school.

Templeton, a nurse at Good Sam, was caught off guard when her son, a 17-year-old junior at West Albany High School, was hesitant to share details and became increasingly agitated by his mother’s curiosity.

“It was only after much insistence on my part and assuring him that whatever was bothering him, we would just deal with it, did he finally tell me of his concerns,” recalled Templeton.

After some comforting reassurance and a lengthy conversation, Templeton learned that her son, Truman, knew of a classmate who had crafted plans to possibly attack his school.

“I hugged him and thanked him for telling me,” said Templeton, “I told him I knew how hard that was for him, that he did the right thing, and that he no longer had to carry that with him. I reassured him that his father and I would take care of the rest and make sure the information got to the right people.”

Templeton and her husband immediately followed up on her promise and reported what her son knew to local law enforcement. Her attentive parenting and her son’s honesty prevented what could have been a deadly crisis that would have shaken the community forever.

Templeton, who describes her relationship with her sons as open, honest and mature, credits her family’s cohesive communication as the reason she recognized the red flags that evening.

“As our kids get older, they get busier,” explained Templeton, “I know it sounds cliché, but have dinner together as often as possible and spend that few minutes talking every day. Let your kids know that you are there to listen, and encourage them to follow their gut; if something seems wrong, tell someone. Remind them that they should never be afraid to do the right thing, and hug them every day.”

“What I assumed was a normal child-parent interaction is actually somewhat extraordinary.  I think the true message in this near tragedy is that parents need to stay involved in their kid’s lives even after they’ve started to pull away.  I am more than happy to be a good example of that.” ~Leslie Templeton

New Interactive School Readiness Resource for Parents

As the parent of two elementary school children, I can still remember wanting to do whatever I could as a parent to prepare my children for school before they entered. In fact, I was looking for creative and fun ideas for activities and experiences for them as soon as I brought them home from the hospital. Okay, that is an overstatement because all I wanted for my newborn babies (and myself) was sleep.

Anyway, the more we can do to give our young children readiness skills for school, the better prepared they are to take advantage of the opportunities that school will provide. The website Zero-to-Three has recently released a fabulous interactive learning tool designed to help parents and caregivers encourage their young children’s early learning.

This Tool Includes:

  • Core information about how children develop school readiness skills and how parents and care givers can nuture and support these skills in young children.
  • Video clips that show children learning these skills through everyday interactions with their parents.
  • Parent-child activities which provide fun ideas for helping children develop school readiness skills.
  • Frequently asked questions that offer answers to common questions about learning.

If you have a newborn through preschooler check out School Readiness Interactive brought to you by  ZERO TO THREE.

The Spectrum of Autism, It’s Wider than Meets the Eye

In the past decade or so we have heard more and more about Autism Spectrum Disorder. It seems that as soon as researchers discover answers, additional questions about the disorder arise (this is part of the story behind the symbol for autism society – a set of multi-colored puzzle pieces). Additionally, the public has become more aware of the characteristics of autism and find that more people in our lives are diagnosed autistic – both children and adults.

While I was working with autistic students in the public schools several years ago, I had the honor of attending an autism inclusion conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The keynote speaker was Temple Grandin, an author and speaker that has become well-known for her inspirational and informative talks about autism from her own autistic perspective. Through her own experiences, she has allowed us to better understand autism from the point-of-view of someone who experiences life through the autistic lens on a daily basis.

The amazing Temple Grandin has just co-authored another book with Richard Panek that takes her under standing of autism to the next level. In the book “The Autistic Brain: Thinking across the Spectrum,” written with Richard Panek (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013) the authors explain that, “we all share characteristics with those diagnosed with autism or Asperger’s: Grandin and Panek quote a 2011 article in “Nature,” which says, “Certain autistic traits–social difficulties, narrow interests, problems with communication–form a continuum across the general population with autism at one extreme.'” and Grandin concludes, “In other words, you don’t have to have an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis to be ‘on the spectrum.'”

Grandin and Panek’s conclusions about autism and its range is a new way of understanding autism and provides a  new framework for understanding the disorder as a spectrum on which many more of us may find ourselves (or at least characteristics that we see in ourselves).

Through real-life examples and a bit of humor, Grandin and Panek go on to offer a variety of parenting techniques as well as practical examples of “the world through the eyes of someone on the autism spectrum” that will help all of us effectively interact with and understand the spectrum of humans that we interact with regardless of where we are on the spectrum.

If you are interested in reading more about their book, “The Autistic Brain: Thinking across the Spectrum” check out the article “Understanding Special Needs Like Autism Spectrum” brought to you by Parentingpress.com.