The Top Six Preschool Learning Digital Learning Activities

I know so many times people say that the teachnology can be bad for their kids. I get it, it can be. However, I think that they can learn so much from technology as long as they don’t abuse it. You are the parent, so you can control that.. Since my son is getting ready to enter preschool soon (not super soon), I want him to be ready. He is incredibly behind as it is, so I want to make sure that we have all the things handy to help him be successful. Here are some of our favorite digital learning activities.

  1. Top 30 Award-Winning Preschool Songs
  2. Preschool Circle Time Songs 
  3. Preschool Songs
  4. I’m a Book Lover 
  5. I’m Gonna Read a Book Someday 
  6. Pre-School Learning Songs-80 Classics

Let us know what you think about these options, we love to hear what our audience thinks. Make sure you allow your child to have fun, while learning. This really helps them to become successful. Happy learning!

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How Sign Language Has Helped Us

Since my son has been diagnosed with autism, it has been hard to get through to him. He is nonverbal and has been for most of his life. We have tried everything but end up getting frustrated. Since he joined ABA, we know now that sign language can work; we just have to keep working to learn and know how to use sign language.

That was our biggest problem, or mine rather. I couldn’t follow through because I wanted to give up. I wanted to just get him to talk and thought I could do so by skipping a step. But when I look back on it, I see that this was an important step. In fact, most babies sign before they reach toddler age. So in order to really move forward, we needed to use sign language for him to communicate.

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We tried it for a while, but it didn’t work. When he was in ABA he would pick up on things much better and easier there just because they knew what they were doing and could dedicate time. It’s hard when you are a mother and have a million things going on or just give into your child so you can get other tasks done. It is a constant toss up.

Once we really started to use signs, it made all of our lives so much easier. Whenever someone else watches him, we make sure they are using the signs. Before sign language, there was a lot of frustration and getting mad (from both of us). Now, we can really understand each other. I ask him if he wants more and he shows me the sign for more, please. I mean, that is incredible.

Autistic or not, there are so many great reasons to teach your child sign language and really help them to understand.

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Birthday Gifts For Three Year Old Toddlers

My son is turning THREE soon, y’all THREE!!!! I can not believe it, but it has been such a fun time going through the past two years. I can’t wait to see what the next year holds for us!

I put together a list of items that are educational and fun for him to have for his birthday gifts. We like to always make sure that the toys are practical and are going to help him, especially being autistic. We know that he LOVES all of these items (from daycare and other misc toys). I hope that you can enjoy these fun interactive learning toys!

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  1. Toddler Musical Instruments- Ehome 15 Types 22pcs Wooden Percussion Instruments Toy for Kids Preschool Educational, Musical Toys Set for Boy
  2. Preschool Educational Toy Wooden Balance Scale Toy with 6 Weights for Kids
  3. Kennedy Toddler Learn to Dress Boards Early Learning Basic Life Skills Toy- Zip, Snap, Button, Buckle, Lace & Tie 6 pcs/set 
  4. Wipe Clean Workbook Tracing and Pen Control (Wipe Clean Workbooks) 
  5. Wipe Clean Workbook Tracing and Pen Control (Wipe Clean Workbooks) 
  6. Award Winning Hape Double Rainbow Stacker Wooden Ring Set Toddler Game 
  7. Peg Board Stacking Toddler Toys – Lacing Fine Motor Skills Montessori Toys for 2, 3, 4, 5 Year Old Girls and Boys
  8. Melissa & Doug Spray, Squirt & Squeegee Play Set – Pretend Play Cleaning Set 
  9. Melissa & Doug Shape Sorting Clock – Wooden Educational Toy 
  10. Melissa & Doug My First Daily Magnetic Calendar
  11. Melissa & Doug Food Groups – 21 Hand-Painted Wooden Pieces and 4 Crates 
  12. Melissa & Doug Band-in-a-Box Clap! Clang! Tap! – 10-Piece Musical Instrument Set 

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The Autism Truths From a Parenting Perspective

People don’t understand what autism is and they think they can figure it out from Google. That is not the case. I don’t ever recommend looking things up on Google; I learned this the hard way. I tried to find the right tools and resources time after time but met dead ends.

I tried to ask people questions and they always responded “every child is different.” I got the answers that I didn’t want. They say that you know your child better than anyone else, and I was always like sure I do, but how do I help him progress in a normal way?  

I ask myself many questions…

 

  • Will my child be normal? This is the constant battle I go back and forth about daily. What really is normal? I can’t define it so why does it even matter? I define “normal” as not flapping his hands and stimming all the time. I define it as doing the activities and having the behavior that regular kids do… you know… everything. My kid is special and unique in his own way and there is nothing I can change.
  • Will he be in special ed?? Well, that is a question that I do not know the answer. I know that currently he is getting all the help that he can, but in the future it might still affect him. Only time will tell for this one.
  • Will he ever talk?? I am positive that he will, it is just a matter of time before he does. It is a never-ending crusade, but I have complete faith. Each day we make small strides that lead us in the right direction.
  • Will he ever calm the stimming down? Stimming is when he makes noises and flaps his hands. This behavior arises when he tries to adjust to stress, boredom, life, or whatever the case may be. It can be pretty constant. I am sure in time this will fade away as well. Once he can talk, I am confident that this reaction will decrease just because of the fact that he won’t be as stressed or frustrated.

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Being an autism parent is hard because I put a lot of the blame on myself. I know that it isn’t my fault, but as a parent we want the best for our kids and try to fix everything. When we can’t, we beat ourselves up and tend to find ways to escape.

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The Top 5 Items For An Autism Preschooler

We have been prepping for pre-school behind the scenes. The truth is, I am a nervous anxious mama. Like all mom’s I am sure. However, I just don’t think my son is ready, so I decided to do some research and find somethings that can help Antonio get ready for preschool. These items help with the fine motor, gross motor, and even the letter and number recognition. They have been working wonderfully for us, and I know fellow mama’s could appreciate this!

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Do you have something that we are missing out on and you know we would enjoy? Comment below and let us check it out!

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Help Your Nonverbal Child Communicate with PECS

The truth is when you have a kid who isn’t talking, you are beyond frustrated. You see kids his age talking and you just wish you were up to that level. But then you take a step back from this make believe world, and realize all you have is non-verbal communication. Through strategies and time, we will get there.

Antonio’s ABA teacher has given us so many great options for getting him to communicate with us. Every time a new idea is suggested, I get overwhelmed because I wonder if it will be effective and how it is really going to work.

One of the new steps that we have tried is PECS (picture exchange communication system). This has been proven to help children communicate and talk. So, basically what it entails is printing out pictures of items that we use everyday and laminating them.

Whenever he wants to communicate, he has to hand us the card and we say the correlating word and take the card from him. This form of communication has worked incredibly well for food times and daily activities (bath time, vitamins, etc). We even have it down to a pattern now that he knows the correct order each component happens in!

Though he isn’t communicating verbally, this has helped us to keep the frustration at bay because we both know what he wants now. It is a great feeling! At first, I thought this was a dumb idea without much merit. But when I saw great results, I knew that this system was leading us in the right direction.

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The Top Reasons for ABA

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a great tool for autistic kids. It really helps them get the help that they need in order to be successful and learn properly. It covers so many topics, ideas, and curriculum. At first, I was scared of this program because I was still in denial about my child being autistic. I am not certified in any of this, this is all my opinion from a parent standpoint. 

This program takes some time before you see results. Nothing will happen overnight and for the longest time I had to keep telling myself that. Here are the top 4 reasons why I would recommend ABA for anyone who is autistic:

  1. They still get social interaction: There are other kids in the program and they do circle time in addition to fun activities. Most of the time people claim the children don’t get the interaction they need, but that couldn’t be further from the truth!
  2. Non-verbal communication: Before we started ABA, communicating was a complete mess. We tried sign language. We tried a lot of things. Now, we are able to actually communicate either with pictures or sign language. Obviously, our end goal is verbal communication but we were able to really gain a lot from this and not be as frustrated!
  3. Celebrate small victories: You can see the progress that your child makes. The program keeps you updated and lets you know what they are working on. This way, when your kid does it at home you can celebrate and keep track of each accomplishment!
  4. Get a break: This might sound kind of rude, but parents need breaks. Especially when you have a special needs child. When I send my kid to ABA, I know he is in excellent care and is receiving the 1 on 1 he needs that sometimes I am not able to provide.

I am not an expert when it comes to ABA, I am just a parent who has her own personal thoughts and feelings. I’d love to hear how you feel about ABA and what has worked for you!

Our favorite Autism Finds

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When Your Child With Autism Goes to School; Navigating the System and Building Your Team (Part 2: 11 Tips to Team Success)

Keeping the points from my previous post in mind, here are some things you can do to make your school experience with your child with Autism the best possible journey.

  1. Educate yourself.  Before you go into your first meeting with your school, learn about your school district/division, state/province policies, procedures and beliefs around high needs learners. This will allow you to go into the meeting knowing your rights and your limitations regarding what you can expect for your kiddo.  It will guide your questioning, and will let the school team see that you are a savvy parent.
  2. Before meeting with the school team, have conversations with your autism support providers.  Your SLP, OT, PT, Autism Support Worker, medical team… everyone who works with your kiddo.  Some of these services may no longer be able to provide services as there will be people within the school system who will provide services instead.  IF this is the case, ask for a TRANSITION MEETING which INCLUDES you.  Transition meetings ensure that information is passed from one specialist to another.  Your presence at the meeting will give you the advantage of knowledge so that you can continue to support the service and so that you can have input into where changes might be needed.
  3. Talk to the Special Educator, Principal or professional who is designated in charge of special programming.  Find out what you can expect regarding a TEAM approach.  Many schools have mandates for team approaches.  Not all schools follow through with a full team approach.  By knowing what to expect, and by knowing the school district/division expectations, you will be empowered to request the level of team collaboration that you are entitled to and comfortable with.  Team meetings are time consuming to set up and take a great deal of coordination as many professionals have huge case loads.  But don’t let this deter you! Be as flexible and accommodating as you can, but make sure meetings are happening.  Set the next meeting at the end of the current one while everyone is at the table.  Generally there will be a team leader that takes care of this, but if they forget or omit to do it, bring it up!
  4. Ask for notes and  keep a file.  You are entitled to copies of any notes from team meetings, so ask for a copy and take your own notes to be sure you remember discussions.  Sometimes time spans between meetings can be great and people may forget discussions.  Having your own notes empowers you to help keep the team on track.
  5. Get copies of professional reports and assessments for your file. Specialist reports will be available to you at some level. Professionals who do assessments have different protocols regarding sharing of information.  There are also some types of reports where numbers and scores cannot be shared.  (This is to your advantage, so respect it! Sharing of numbers increases the risk that people who aren’t trained to interpret scores might get hold of them and misinterpret them or breach confidentiality!)  But get copies of whatever you can, especially the recommendations for programming!  SIGN whatever sharing agreements are necessary between your current service providers and the school so that they can work collaboratively and make sure that programming continues uninterrupted and confidentiality is respected.
  6. ASK QUESTIONS.  Go into your meetings with questions as opposed to demands.  Questions are less harsh, but still get to the point of your concerns. Your team will be receptive.  Demands have the effect of putting people on the defensive which makes for difficult team dynamics. Asking questions gives you the opportunity to hear what people’s ideas and plans are, and ensures that all team members are hearing what others think, and have the opportunity to give their input.  (See www.empoweredparentplan.com for a downloadable list of questions you can ask or adapt to your needs.)
  7. You will probably be asked to sign a form which outlines your child’s goals and program.  Make sure you understand it, and ask for clarification before signing.  These program plans are mandated in most school districts/divisions and are legal documents.  Please understand that they take a huge amount of time and coordination to put together, and that the person who’s preparing them probably is preparing a lot of them.  There may be mistakes or things left out.  Checking before signing is diligent, and will be helpful in making sure that things are clear.  Going forward, focus your discussions around that plan.  Copies of the plan should be shared with you and with anyone working with your child.  Most of these plans are “living documents” which means they are not written in stone.  If you think something’s not working, have a meeting to change the plan.
  8. IF there is a change in schools because of a move or moving up grades, or if a team member changes within the school, make sure that a transition meeting is held.  There should be a transition process for your child as well so that they understand the change and are not surprised/upset by it.  In my experience, sometimes things happen quickly and the school may not have thought about or had time for a transition.  Feel free to bring up the idea and ask how the change can be eased for your child. Social stories are a great strategy for transitions.
  9. Educational Associates or Teacher Aides, (whatever your school district calls paraprofessionals hired to support your child’s programming), are a great resource for your child, but they are not the teacher. Not all students with high needs will have full paraprofessional support.  It’s not always needed.  Sometimes it is needed, but budgets are tight and the school is unable to provide additional supports.  This can be a touchy subject.  First of all, realize that your child’s primary educator needs to be the teacher.  If other students or a paraprofessional are able to give some additional help that is perfect.  But make sure that decisions are being made and that your communication occurs WITH the teacher.  Some teachers feel inadequate when working with high needs kids because they have little experience or training with the specific special need, and are inclined to give a lot of responsibility to paraprofessionals who have the best of intentions, but may not have any training or experience with Autism. Teachers have a team of other professionals around them who can support and advise them.  Children with Autism often become very attached to and comfortable with a paraprofessional, which is great in so many ways.  Difficulty working with anyone other than the aide is not good for your child.  If they will only work for one particular aide, and there is a change, your child may have difficulty.  Paraprofessionals can also be assigned to work with OTHER students freeing the teacher to work with your child. I would never undervalue the role of the paraprofessional because I know from experience how an Aide in the classroom can be a life saver for the teacher and a huge asset to the child.  But as a parent, as much as you can, encourage your child’s learning flexibility and being given social and learning opportunities with PEERS, and some time with the teacher and perhaps other assistants, not just socializing all day with one particular adult. The paraprofessional should be a facilitator of social interactions, not a replacement for them.
  10. 10.You know your child best.  It’s not a bad idea to remind others of that sometimes.  On the other hand, your child may not behave the same at school as at home for a variety of reasons (another whole blog post for this).  Sometimes parenting kids with ASD can be so exhausting for parents that they slowly, slowly start giving in on more and more things.  It’s easier to give in than to fight, and you’ve got your kiddo 24/7. This is your reality.  It may not hurt to consider how the school is addressing things differently, and to carry that strategy into the home.
  11. 11.In my work with high needs kids, my biggest belief is that if we can give them nothing else, we should at the very least give kids what they want/need most in life, and that is Social Opportunity.  What we all want for our kids is for them to have friends and be loved, valued and included.  This is the gift of inclusion.  In the final analysis, whether or not your kiddo can name the food groups is much less important than whether or not s/he can live, work and play with others peacefully and be truly part of a group.  I could go ON and ON on this point.  In my view peers are not other high needs kids.  Peer groups should be a reflection of everyday society, including people of all abilities and needs.  My personal bias I know, but also the belief of many individuals and groups who work with high needs individuals.  There may be a place for some time in individual program work where life or communication skills can be learned and practiced away from the group.  But in general, your kiddo needs to learn to exist in the world.  And that can only be learned through practice.  We are social beings, and social learners. Even kids with Autism desire social contact because it is innate in all of us!  But they have trouble with it.  Social anxiety is often the underlying cause of this, and there are ways to address this if we try.  But being removed from social situations does not help.  Preparing for social situations is key.

I’ve said so much here and I fear it may be overwhelming.  I’m truly passionate about this topic and believe that children with ASD are a joy and a privilege to know and work with. I also know that they can be very challenging. When you enter the school system and through life, you are your kiddo’s #1 advocate.  Your engaged, informed involvement in his/her education will be a great gift both to your child and to the team working with him/her.  Know your rights, and expect them.  Be gentle but assertive with your team mates (they’re also trying their best!) to make the best possible collaborative work toward your child’s learning.  The value you will gain from everyone putting their efforts into the child (rather than into working against each other or constantly trying to establish a workable team) will pay off greatly.

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FACEBOOK Empowered Parent Plan~ Twitter @MpoweredparNT~ Instagram mpoweredparent ~ Pinterest Roberta Luchinski

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BIO- Roberta Luchinski is the Owner/Facilitator of Empowered Parent Plan.  She helps busy parents prevent, respond to and change their kiddo’s difficult behaviours.  Roberta uses positive parenting strategies and brain based methods tried and true from her experience as a Mom, Grandma and 30 years of Educator experience. Roberta holds an MEd in Educational Psychology and has worked with diverse students as a Classroom Teacher, a Diversity Teacher, a Special Educator and a Consultant.

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Simple Tricks To Advocate For Your Child at School.

 

It’s easy to get overwhelmed and caught up in the muck of school. This is your baby after all! Keeping emotions in check to work through tough situations can be super challenging. To work most effectively with your child’s team, use a few simple tricks to advocate for your child at school.

  1. Keep an open mind
    You see one side of your child at home. They are comfortable with you and in their environment. This can lead to different behaviors and work habits.
    At school, they could feel less sure or work hard to be on their best behavior. Which means that things you see often, might not ever happen at school. Or the opposite might happen: school is seeing things that don’t happen at home. School can only act on what they are seeing and what the data reflects. If they don’t see it in the school environment, they can’t address it. Additionally, school might have resources or treatment options that you might not have considered. It is really easy to zone in on one therapy or education program. There could be other options out there available through the school that you might not have considered. Keeping an open mind could help you to see things from a different angle or find new solutions.
  2. Lead with the positive
    When you want something, it pays off to soften them up with a little positivity. In meetings, pay compliments to team members. Via email, sandwich your request or concern between two positive statements. Leading with positivity helps everyone remember the silver linings and the benefit of the child. The teachers and therapists will feel warm fuzzies for you and your child. That makes it easier for them to say yes to your request or answer your concern. Your positive statements don’t need to be huge. Pick something that you genuinely like or feel is going well. It could be as simple as thanking someone for their kindness and concern for your child. A fun field trip, an interesting experiment, or even a cool book could be your positive thing.
    Setting an uplifting tone early, or often, can help the meeting stay on track and find solutions that work for everyone.
  3. Know your rights. There are a few rights and laws that can help you. FERPA gives you access to your child’s records and can help you correct errors. IDEA governs IEPs and special education plan implementation. Section 504 control how 504 Plans are created and put into place. Additionally, at every IEP meeting you should be offered a copy of procedural safeguards. Make sure you have at least one copy in your files at all times. This document outlines your rights and options, as well as timelines for special education procedures in your state/district. Certain deadlines vary by state, so making a cheat sheet to help you keep track of everything can be a total lifesaver.
  4. Ask for help when you need it. Parents have options for assistance. Many districts offer volunteer parent advocates or mentors to help parents find solutions. Every state also offers a parent education center. These centers have lists of local advocates and other resources, like trainings, to assist parents for low or no cost.
    For targeted assistance, parents always have the right to hire a private advocate or attorney. Bringing a professional on board can make a huge difference when things get really contentious.
  5. Always have a plan. Before your meeting, write out your goals, concerns, and questions. Gather all your data and color code it. What really helps is to write out a script and then practice repeatedly. Having a guide of what to say helps you stay on point. Practicing will let you get comfortable with how to speak and the tone of voice to use. Prepping this way helps you to stay in the moment and keep your emotions in check. Remaining logical can help you make your case for an additional service, change in placement, or extra test.
  6. You’re all on “Team Child” At the end of the day, you and the school want the best for your child. You might just have different ways of handling it. Propose solutions to the teaching team and back them up with data or evidence of effectiveness. Keep an open mind when the school shares their data or ideas, too. How do you advocate for your child at school? Share your best tips in the comments!

Guest Blog Post — MilKids Ed is an education blog and advocacy service providing easy K-12 solutions for busy modern families Meg Flanagan founded MilKids Ed in 2010 as a military family-focused tutoring business. MilKids Ed has since grown into a flourishing education blog. Since 2015, MilKids Ed has been a reputable source of education tips, advice, and support for families around the world.

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When Your Child With Autism Goes to School; Navigating the System and Building Your Team (Part 1: Preparing YOU for When Your Child Starts School)

I have had the privilege, and I mean privilege in the most sincere way possible, of working with several children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD or Autism in this post) as a special educator, a consultant and classroom teacher in my career.  I say privilege, because these children taught me so much , especially about behaviour and inclusion.

As a special educator, one of the things I learned early in my career is that sometimes, by the time they enter the school system, parents of kids with special needs have spent years fighting for what they need for their child.  They’ve been navigating a system that has not always been easy and accessible, and have not always been listened to or honoured for what they know about their own child’s needs.

Sometimes, when parents have come into the school system, they have come in “swinging”.  They have their hackles raised, ready to fight, even before the process has begun.  This is so sad, and can sometimes start things off on a difficult note.

I’m guessing that if you are reading this, you are already relating on some level.  From an educator’s point of view, I’d like to share a few ideas that will help you gain more power and influence in the school system and in the decisions that will be made regarding your child’s education.

Ok… before I go any further there are a few things I have to clear up.

  1. Please use and ask others to use respectful terminology when referring to your child.  Your child is a child with autism (ASD), not an ASD Child or an Autistic of an Autistic child.  Respectful language puts the child first and the challenge second.  We want our kiddos to be seen as kids, not “disabilities”, and this subtle use of wording can make a difference. I don’t consider this a “labeling” problem as sometimes labeling can be quite useful.  But the label should not define the child.  Politely, with a smile, ask people to use the appropriate wording.
  2. Not all systems are the same.  The policies, procedures and processes in each school district, and even within individual schools, can differ greatly! I don’t claim to know how all schools operate regarding programming for high needs kiddos.  But knowing that all schools can differ is a powerful understanding, and one that can work to your advantage as you begin your education system journey.
  3. You need to know off the start that I’m a huge advocate of inclusion.  This is not the same as “integration”. (This is material for another article)  Inclusion goes further than integration.  Inclusion isn’t a “place” the child is in, it is more of a philosophy for making decisions in a way that does not exclude the child from experiences and opportunities.  And for me the biggest of these is social experiences and opportunities.  AND you need to know right from the get-go that not all educators and certainly not all systems agree with inclusion, or implement it in the same ways, or even fully understand it. So you may have to take a gentle lead if this is what you want.

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FACEBOOK Empowered Parent Plan~ Twitter @MpoweredparNT~ Instagram mpoweredparent ~ Pinterest Roberta Luchinski

Contact roberta@empoweredparentplan.com

BIO- Roberta Luchinski is the Owner/Facilitator of Empowered Parent Plan.  She helps busy parents prevent, respond to and change their kiddo’s difficult behaviours.  Roberta uses positive parenting strategies and brain based methods tried and true from her experience as a Mom, Grandma and 30 years of Educator experience. Roberta holds an MEd in Educational Psychology and has worked with diverse students as a Classroom Teacher, a Diversity Teacher, a Special Educator and a Consultant.

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