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    Community Voices

    How parents can help kids with back to school anxiety?

    <p>How parents can help kids with back to school anxiety?</p>
    Tylia Flores

    Ways to Make Going Back to School Easier for Children With Disabilities

    As another school year begins, many parents think about the challenges of sending their children with disabilities to school. Here are seven ways to make this back-to-school season easier for your child with a disability. 1. Discuss your child’s disability at school with their teacher. I would definitely recommend having an open discussion about your child’s needs with their teacher as soon as you can. Discussing ways you can help your child’s learning become more accessible is a beneficial decision because every child with cerebral palsy is different, and they may all need different accommodations. 2. Establish a back-to-school routine that works for both you and your child. Going back to school can be overwhelming for your child — especially because they’re learning to navigate their disability at school. Coming up with a schedule that includes getting ready for school, doing homework with your child, and getting ready for the next school day will keep life consistent for your child and may make their life easier. 3. Discuss your child’s disability with your child and their classmates at school. It can be overwhelming for a child with a disability to enter a new classroom with students they may never have met before, so be sure to tell your child’s classmates about your child’s disability. Young children may ask a lot of questions about disabilities, so it can be beneficial for parents of children with disabilities to talk with their child’s new classmates about their child’s needs and interests. This will allow your child to transition to their new grade more easily, and it can even start dialogue about disabilities between your child and the other students. 4. Allow your child to bring a comfort item from home to school if they can. Not every school has the same rules, but if your child’s school allows it, bring your child’s favorite comfort object to school with them until they feel more comfortable. Students with disabilities may become overwhelmed by having to deal with a new teacher and classroom, but having a comfort item from home, like a stress ball, can help reduce their anxiety. If your child with disabilities also has anxiety or panic attacks, having something they love from home can help them feel like it will all be OK. 5. Go over your child’s individualized education plan (IEP) or 504 plan with them. My mother wanted me to be fully aware of what was expected of me in the classroom, so she was open about reviewing my IEP with me every year. Reviewing your child’s accommodations or goals with them will help them know what’s going to be in store for them during the new school year. It may also make it easier for your child to adjust to their new grade. 6. Talk to your child’s school about allowing them different ways to sit. Due to my cerebral palsy, I was given an hour-long period to get out of my wheelchair and stretch my body at school. They put a bean bag in the room so I could change positions whenever I needed to while still doing my classwork. If your child has pain from staying in one position for too long or struggles to sit still, having ways to make sitting down more comfortable is essential to learning. 7. Discuss options for inclusive activities in your child’s mainstream classes at school. My school made sure I was involved in activities like field day and physical education and devised alternative plans to accommodate for my disability and still let me participate. Talk with your child’s teacher about ways to include them in all parts of school — even when they might struggle to do activities the same way as their classmates. Starting a new school year can be tough — especially if your child with a disability is nervous to go back to school. Hopefully, these tips will make it a whole lot easier for your child with a disability to have a happy school year.

    Community Voices

    Back to school

    Stepdaughter has finished ABA and we're done with doing school online. She just simply isn't thriving there. She refuses to do any of the work so they worked with her during the past couple month to prepare her for 7th grade. She went back last Wednesday. So far, so good. She hasn't had any escalations in refusals and seems to like the environment overall. She has accomodations, but We meet with the principal later this week to work out more of her IEP and get some of that in writing. 🤞Hopefully all goes well and she stays on track! 🤞

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    Community Voices

    Mighty Virtual Events: Friday, 8/20/21!

    <p>Mighty Virtual Events: Friday, 8/20/21!</p>
    Community Voices

    Supporting Children's Social-Emotional Learning During COVID-19

    With the 2020-2021 school schedule still up in the air, students around the United States are left with many “what ifs.” Combine this notion with the fact that many states are seeing a major resurgence of COVID-19 cases, and we’ll undoubtedly notice a sense of unease among young people. The social-emotional impact of stressful times is something with which school counselors and psychologists are well-equipped to deal. However, these necessary services are not as effective when staff and students are working remotely. Because of this, parents are left, not only with the unknowns we’re all dealing with, but also with the task of meeting children’s social-emotional needs at home. We often think of academic subject areas when discussing what students are learning in schools. However, beyond chemistry, English and world history, schools also work to ensure that students learn social-emotional skills. Schools offer counseling programs, after-school activities, peer groups, family resources, testing and referrals and many other resources to help students thrive socially and emotionally as well as academically. Aside from these programs specifically targeting social-emotional welfare, school is an inherently social microcosm, one in which students are constantly and subconsciously adapting, reasoning, exploring, considering and evolving. In this sense, school acts as a major contributor to one’s social-emotional well-being. Stress and anxiety impede learning, so what can parents do to help? Counteract it with these strategies: 1. Parents can help children learn to deflect their nervous energy and anxiety by considering others. Ask kids, “Who needs more help than you do? And how can we help that person or persons?” These questions directly prompt children to check their own worries at the door and to look outside themselves in order to help others. This practice enables students to not only practice perspective-taking, but also encourage empathy—a central social-emotional skill. In focusing on others in need, several things occur. First, these conversations allow families to take proactive steps to assist in the community. Also, a child’s own concerns are somewhat alleviated when they focus on someone else’s well being. Finally, by helping others, children and teens inadvertently gain their own new coping skills and strategies. Seeing resilience in others is an inspiration and benefit to all. 2. Another strategy that comes on the heels of helping others is to consider what actions kids can personally take to better their own current situation. In thinking like this, children take an active role in their anxiety or stress — they are no longer passively allowing the struggles to overwhelm them without doing anything about it. Kids need to understand that, while stress is caused by external or uncontrollable factors, it is an internal response—one that can be regulated with practice. 3. Parents can also help children build social-emotional skills by finding and reading texts that contain characters who are battling similar struggles. Whether fiction or nonfiction, texts have the unique ability to engage and instruct at the same time. When children see a character’s struggle, especially one similar to their own, they begin to see their situation from a different lens. They also get the opportunity to learn how the character or characters dealt with the problem and adjust accordingly. Literature also works to show children how their actions and decisions can directly affect others. Reading promotes this higher level of social-emotional thinking. 4. Finally, a common practice used in school counseling departments is journaling or photojournalism. The practice of freely expressing one’s thoughts is not only therapeutic; it also helps children to center their thoughts, focus on the now and reconcile their emotions in writing. Experts also discuss how the journal entries or photos of their experiences act as an archived collection of challenges and obstacles they’ve overcome. By looking back or rereading journal entries, kids automatically reflect on their experiences with a new, more clear perspective.

    Jami Demuth

    Choosing Not to Send My Kids to School During COVID-19

    The decision to send your kids to school this year is an oppressive burden we would have never imagined last August. Like many families, my spouse and I debated the pros and cons. And for many, there is no other choice but to send their kids to school if that is an option. I have three children and for them, the routine of school is a steadying force. Like many families, we started with good intentions last spring. We printed off their assignments and set aside time for them to complete their work, but as a two-parent working family, we could only do so much and as time went by schoolwork fell by the wayside. So, our first instinct this fall was to send our kids to school in the hybrid model our school created, schooling two to three days a week with the rest of the week online. The many unknowns made us leery, but the overriding concern for our children’s mental health made us lean towards the hybrid option. However, I began to think about my family history. It made me pause and ultimately led to our decision to keep our children home at least for the first part of the school year. My mom passed away last year. She discovered she had breast cancer the spring before I went off to college. Several years later when my husband and I arrived home from our honeymoon, she informed us that her cancer was back — this time affecting her other breast. My mom kept her latest bout with cancer a secret. She had metastatic bone cancer and died a few months shy of her 76th birthday. But her death isn’t my focus; the circumstances that led to her death made me pause and rethink sending my children to school this year. Vaccines are a great gift — one we often forget about like previous epidemics and pandemics. My mom was born in 1943, just when vaccines were becoming more widely available. She and her siblings didn’t receive the whooping cough vaccine. My mom was 3 when her older sister brought whooping cough home from school. The result was that my mom and her younger sister, who was an infant, both got the virus. All three of the siblings suffered from the racking cough with its “whooping” sound which the virus is named for. The experimental treatment at the time was doses of x-rays aimed at the neck and chest that served to reduce the inflammation the virus caused, thereby making breathing easier. My grandmother, ever haunted by her decision to have her children receive the x-ray treatment at Mercy Hospital in Chicago, remembers that her parents warned her there could be consequences to this treatment. In fact, they begged her not to go through with it. “You didn’t question doctors back then,” my grandmother once said. Whooping cough could be deadly, especially for infants. What other choice did my grandparents have? My grandmother was born in 1916. She saw the ravages of polio. School children brought the illness home with them, infecting their siblings and families. My grandmother’s older sister contracted the poliovirus, which caused her lifelong problems. Most of the memories I have of my great-aunt were her sitting in a wheelchair or walking with the aid of a walker. No doubt this experience colored my grandparents’ decision to go ahead with the x-ray treatment for their daughters. My mom’s youngest sister, an infant, had three doses of radiation, my mom the middle child had two doses and her older sister had one dose. My grandmother said that doctors told her to get buckets after her daughters had the radiation treatments. “They will be throwing up a lot. But eventually, it will go away,” my grandmother was told. My mom could remember having severe diarrhea when she was a girl. It was so bad, she had to be hospitalized. After reading about radiation exposure, I asked my mom if this could have been what she experienced. Probably, she pondered. I began researching information about individuals who had x-ray treatments as kids in the 1940s and 1950s. Many reported thyroid nodules and cancer roughly 25-30 years later. In 1977, one month before I was conceived, my mother and her youngest sister both had their thyroids removed on the same day. Both had thyroid nodules most likely caused by radiation exposure they received when they were kids. Everything seemed to happen at the same time with my mother and her youngest sister — they both found out they had breast cancer within a few years of each other. My aunt was only 46 when she found out she had metastatic breast cancer. She endured chemo three times. My mom received a better prognosis at the time. She had one breast removed and didn’t require chemo. But several years later she had the other breast removed due to the cancer returning. Along with cancer, there were debilitating effects of the radiation. My mom struggled to conceive, most likely due to her thyroid being affected by the radiation. She had at least three miscarriages before she got pregnant with my brother. Finding her medical records when she passed away, I discovered my parents had signed adoption papers but didn’t go through with the adoption process. My sister was conceived shortly thereafter. My mom was severely ill when she was pregnant with my siblings — again, likely due to low thyroid function caused by the radiation. She experienced teeth problems her whole life. “The radiation” is what the family referred to as the source of these myriad health problems. As we learned in the fall of 2018, my mother’s cancer had returned at least five years previously. She kept it a secret and we didn’t notice until a large mass showed up on her chest. She had both breasts removed and I reasoned it was scar tissue. Essentially the final cancer my mom had, metastatic bone cancer, was due to the radiation she had as a child. How does this relate to today’s pandemic? We are quick to forget the effects of past viral outbreaks like polio and whooping cough, both of which affected members of my family all their lives. COVID-19 is a new virus, one we don’t know much about. Our view is limited, like the options presented to my grandparents. Risk your children dying or let them have an experimental treatment. There are many reports of hydroxychloroquine or other drugs used to treat the symptoms of the virus causing side effects. Yet we don’t know the long-term effects of these treatments. Doctors are finding that blood clots caused by the virus can affect multiple organs, and that COVID-19 can cause heart and lung damage that may be permanent. And we don’t even know the other possible long-lasting effects that may not show up until years later. Looking at history, I pause when I think about the experiences of my family, my great aunt, my mom and her sister, and the lifelong effects of viruses they had as children. At least in this moment, knowing this is an ever-evolving situation, I am going to keep my children home from school. It’s a tough decision for all parents. For me though, I feel like it’s a gift from my mom. As a witness to her suffering, I am reminded of how much we really don’t know about this virus, like so many viruses and pandemics from the past.

    Kristi Hugstad

    Coping With the Stress of Back-to-School During COVID-19

    With summer winding down and a new school year on the horizon, it’s an exciting time of year for you and your family — unless, of course, it isn’t. So far, 2020 hasn’t been what anyone expected — and it doesn’t look like school this fall will be, either. How do you and your family cope with back-to-school when kids aren’t actually going back to school? Or if your child’s state and district is headed back, how do you deal with altered schedules, social distancing precautions, sweeping uncertainty and the risk of getting sick? If the thought of starting an academic year under this “new normal” feels daunting, take heart. The 2020-2021 school year doesn’t have to be a wash. In fact, finding simple, healthy ways to adapt to and cope with the current situation can help you and your family thrive — whatever this year of school looks like. 1. Simplify the process. If you’re currently thinking “I never wanted to be a homeschool parent,” well, you’re not alone. In fact, a recent USA Today article titled “This Is Hell” claimed that parents and students across the country hated online learning. If those feelings are all-too-familiar, maybe it’s time to simplify. For many of us, our calendars are clearing themselves these days, but if you’re still bogged down with activities and commitments, take a good look at your current load and bail on anything unnecessary. Depending on your child’s grade level (not to mention work ethic!), you may need to add time into your schedule to help or supervise your student — but planning for that beforehand can save you the frustration and anxiety of taking on too much. 2. Structure the day. Last March, we were all hit with an unprecedented problem: how to stay active, engaged and productive in the face of incredible disruption to our routines. We were no longer commuting to work, hustling to school drop-off, planning around sporting events or work dinners. With our routines disrupted, many of us realized how much we depend on structure to boost not only our productivity but also our mental health and well-being. Now that we’ve had a chance to adapt (as much as possible) to this “new normal,” use that experience to create routines that structure your day. From online learning to remote work to Zoom social meetups, structure provides you with a sense of purpose and sets realistic expectations. In fact, research shows that healthy daytime routines improve mental health. This school year, take some time to create a structured routine — even if things feel incredibility unstructured. 3. Live in the moment. One of the most difficult challenges of the COVID-19 situation has been its unrelenting uncertainty. From whether we’ll have jobs next month, to what the economy will look like in a year, to whether your children will attend (or fall behind in) school, it can be difficult to stay positive and motivated in the face of so many unknowns. Unfortunately, none of us have crystal balls — but that doesn’t mean we need to live in fear. Practice living in — and appreciating — each moment. Focus on what you can do today to stay positive, help your children learn and create meaningful experiences, even in the face of instability. 4. Observe behavior. As an adult, you already know what it’s like to face the disruption and disappointments of the last several months. Unfortunately, children aren’t immune to this disruption, and along with feeling bored and disappointed, they may also experience fear and confusion. Watch for behavior changes in your child. A helpful list from the CDC outlines some behaviors that may be worrisome, such as unusual irritation or bouts of anger, regression to outgrown behaviors, changes in sleeping and eating habits, inexplicable headaches or body pain — just to name a few. If you notice anything alarming in your child’s behavior, talk to your pediatrician or another medical or psychiatric professional. 5. Don’t demand (or expect) perfection. If you’re looking for a sense of permission, here it is: relax. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Settle for less than perfect – and expect less than perfect. Demanding too much of yourself during this challenging time is asking for disappointment and guilt. After all, if you were born to teach children reading, writing and arithmetic — not to mention calculus and chemistry — you’d likely have sought out a teaching career. The COVID-19 situation has taught many of us many things, not the least of which is patience. Now more than ever, you need to practice that patience with your kids — and especially yourself. 6. Ask for help. If there’s one thing you take away from this article, let it be this: recognize when you’re in over your head, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. The challenges you and your family are facing are not less difficult just because everyone else is facing them too. If you need support — whether that’s a listening ear, a school tutor for your children or treatment from a medical professional — ask for it. Talk to a trusted friend, a family doctor or your kids’ teachers or school staff. Chances are, they can help. We’re in this together, and that means no one should face it alone.

    Community Voices

    Anyone else working at a school where you are back in-person? Where is your anxiety about returning? #Backtoschool

    <p>Anyone else working at a school where you are back in-person? Where is your <a href="" class="tm-embed-link  tm-autolink health-map" data-id="5b23ce5f00553f33fe98d1b4" data-name="anxiety" title="anxiety" target="_blank">anxiety</a> about returning? <a class="tm-topic-link ugc-topic" title="back-to-school" href="/topic/back-to-school/" data-id="5b23ce6400553f33fe98dee9" data-name="back-to-school" aria-label="hashtag back-to-school">#Backtoschool</a> </p>
    7 people are talking about this
    Community Voices

    Leave a hopeful message for the students returning back to school right now. 💬

    <p>Leave a hopeful message for the students returning back to school right now. 💬</p>
    9 people are talking about this