Why We Chose SLC

My son Z loves music. He hears music in the sound of a running vacuum cleaner. Whenever he hears music he loves, he spins. When it’s a beautiful summer day and windy, he spins because he hears melody in the wind rustling through the leaves. Our world has lots of unwritten rules, music seems to be the one aspect that makes sense to him.

Z was diagnosed with Autism when he was 3.5 years old. I wanted to find a school that accepted him for who he is. SLC is Z’s third preschool. A school’s website can say all the right words, but as a parent what I want to see is those words in action. The team at SLC met with me three times before I even reached a decision. As a parent to a special needs child, all I want from educators is open-mindedness, kindness, and respect towards my family. My very first meeting with Chrissy (SLC’s Director & Inclusion Facilitator) embodied all these characteristics. Every time we met, she was transparent about what her team of teachers were capable of, and what steps we can take so my son is successful at school.

Autism is a communication and social interaction disability. Dr. Stephen Shore says, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” Keeping that in mind, I feel, a school where there are opportunities for my son to interact with “typical” kids does help his development. After a week at SLC, he started showing interest in tricycles when he never did before. What warms my hearts more than the leaps my son is making developmentally is what he is teaching his classmates. The teachers tell me his friends are encouraging, kind, and respectful towards him. As an adult, I have met educators who want to put my son in a box. “Oh he has autism, so he must not be capable of this and that”. The three year olds in Z’s class are learning respect and kindness towards differently abled kids and adults. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a valuable skill to learn.

I believe my son deserves to be accepted for who he is. That’s what we all want. To be accepted for who we are. As a parent to a special needs child, my one request to educators is to keep an open mind. Don’t make assumptions based on diagnosis. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for all the resources an autism diagnosis opens up. But I also want educators to challenge my son when needed and maybe get creative if a special needs child learns differently.

I’ll never forget the feeling of hope and welcome I felt at my first meeting at SLC. A nonverbal Autistic young man, Naoki Higashida wrote “I can’t help but feel that some imbalance in the world first caused neuro-atypical people to be needed and then brought us into being. Those who are determined to live with us and not give up on us are deeply compassionate people, and this kind of compassion must be a key to humanity’s long-term survival.”

Sajna Abdul
SLC parent

Who is Brian Reed?

Brian is one of our weekly volunteers in the Orange and Blue Rooms. He has been helping us for about 12 years, as part of a wonderful collaboration between SLC, and Centers for Independent Futures (CIF) in Evanston, an organization that supports adults with special needs.

This connection has been an invaluable experience, in discovering how we can all share and care and work together, using all of our abilities and skills. SLC has always been at the forefront of inclusion, and we are so thrilled to incorporate inclusion, from childhood through adulthood.

Some fun facts about Brian:

♥  He has been all across the globe and has interesting stories about his travels.
♥  He is a superstar athlete/Walker in Special Olympics! He has hundreds of medals! Go Brian!
♥  When visiting SLC he loves to do the art projects and has fun visiting the gym and park with the pre-k kids!

Kathy Tribble –Strong

Not Naughty: 10 Ways Kids Appear to Be Acting Bad But Aren’t

Here are 10 ways kids may seem like they’re acting “naughty,” but really aren’t.

When we recognize kids’ unwelcome behaviors as reactions to environmental conditions, developmental phases, or our own actions, it lets us respond proactively, and with much more compassion.

  1. Not controlling impulses.

Ever say to your kid, “Don’t throw that!” and they throw it anyway? Research suggests that the brain regions involved in self-control are immature at birth and don’t fully mature until the end of adolescence, which explains why developing self-control is a “long, slow process” (Tarullo, Obradovic, & Gunna, 2009, 31). A recent survey revealed that many parents assume children can do things at earlier ages than child-development experts know to be true. For example, 56 percent of parents felt that children under the age of 3 should be able to resist the desire to do something forbidden, whereas most children don’t master this skill until age three-and-a-half or four (Zero to Three, 2016). Reminding ourselves that kids can’t always manage impulses (because their brains aren’t fully developed) can inspire gentler reactions to their behavior.

  1. Overstimulation.

We take our kids to Target, the park, and their sister’s play in a single morning, and inevitably see meltdowns, hyperactivity, or outright resistance. Jam-packed schedules, overstimulation, and exhaustion are hallmarks of modern family life. Research suggests that 28 percent of Americans “always feel rushed” and 45 percent report having “no excess time” (Robinson, 2013). Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting, argues that children experience a “cumulative stress reaction” from too much enrichment, activity, choice, and toys. He asserts that kids need tons of “down time” to balance their “up time” (Payne, 2010). When we build in plenty of quiet time, playtime, and rest time, children’s behavior often improves dramatically.

  1. Core conditions.

Ever been “hangry” — angry because you’re hungry — or completely out of patience due to sleep deprivation? Little kids are affected tenfold by such “core conditions” of being tired, hungry, thirsty, over-sugared, or sick. Kids’ ability to manage emotions and behavior is greatly diminished when they’re tired. Many parents also notice a sharp change in children’s behavior about an hour before meals, if they woke up in the night, or if they are coming down with an illness. Kids can’t always communicate or “help themselves” to a snack, a Tylenol, water, or a nap like adults can.

  1. Expression of big feelings.

As adults, we’ve been taught to tame and hide our big emotions, often by stuffing them, displacing them, or distracting from them. Kids can’t do that yet. Early childhood educator Janet Lansbury has a great phrase for when kids display powerful feelings such as screaming, yelling, or crying. She suggests that parents “Let feelings be” by not reacting or punishing kids when they express powerful emotions.

  1. Developmental need for tons of movement.

“Sit still!” “Stop chasing your brother around the table!” “Stop sword fighting with those pieces of cardboard!” “Stop jumping off the couch!” Kids have a developmental need for tons of movement. They have a tremendous need to spend time outside, ride bikes and scooters, do rough and tumble play, crawl under things, swing from things, jump off things, and race around things. Instead of calling a child “bad” when they’re acting energetic, it may be better to organize a quick trip to the playground or a stroll around the block.

  1. Developmentally-wired to resist and become independent.

Every 40- and 50-degree day resulted in an argument at one family’s home. A first-grader insisted that it was warm enough to wear shorts, while mom said the temperature called for pants. Erik Erikson’s (1963) model posits that toddlers try to do things for themselves, and that preschoolers take initiative and carry out their own plans. Even though it’s annoying when a child picks your tomatoes while they’re still green, cuts their own hair, or makes a fort with 8 freshly-washed sheets, they’re doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing—trying to carry out their own plans, separate, make their own decisions, and become their own little independent people.

  1. Core strengths that trip them up.

We all have core strengths that can also trip us up. Maybe we’re incredibly focused, but can’t transition very easily. Maybe we’re intuitive and sensitive, but take on other people’s negative moods like a sponge. Kids are similar: They may be driven in school, but have difficulty coping when they mess up (e.g. yelling when they make a mistake). They may be cautious and safe, but resistant to new activities (e.g. refusing to go to baseball practice). They may live in the moment, but aren’t that organized (e.g. letting their bedroom floor become covered with toys). Recognizing when a child’s unwelcome behaviors are really the flip side of their strengths—just like ours—can help us react with more understanding.

  1. Fierce need for play.

Your kid paints her face with yogurt, wants you to chase her and “catch her” when you’re trying to brush her teeth, or puts on daddy’s shoes instead of her own when you’re racing out the door. Some of kids’ seemingly “bad” behaviors are what John Gottman calls “bids” for you to play with them. Kids love to be silly and goofy. They delight in the connection that comes from shared laughter and love the elements of novelty, surprise, and excitement. Play often takes extra time and therefore gets in the way of parents’ own timelines and agendas, which may look like resistance and naughtiness even when it’s not. When parents build lots of playtime into the day, kids don’t need to beg for it so hard when you’re trying to get them out the door.

  1. Reaction to parents’ moods.

Multiple research studies on emotional contagion have found that it only takes milliseconds for emotions like enthusiasm and joy, as well as sadness, fear, and anger, to pass from person to person, and this often occurs without either person realizing it (Goleman, 1991, Hatfield et al., 2014). Kids especially pick up on their parents’ moods. If we are stressed, distracted, down, or always-on-the-verge-of-frustrated, kids emulate these moods. When we are peaceful and grounded, kids model off that instead.

  1. Response to inconsistent limits.

At one ball game, you buy your kid M & Ms. At the next, you say, “No, it’ll ruin your dinner,” and your kid screams and whines. One night you read your kids five books, but the next you insist you only have time to read one, and they beg for more. One night you ask your child, “What do you want for dinner?” and the next night you say, “We’re having lasagna, you can’t have anything different,” and your kids protest the incongruence. When parents are inconsistent with limits, it naturally sets off kids’ frustration and invites whining, crying, or yelling. Just like adults, kids want (and need) to know what to expect. Any effort toward being 100 percent consistent with boundaries, limits, and routines will seriously improve children’s behavior.

By Erin Leyba, PhD

Copyright 2017 Erin Leyba, PhD

Why Play?

Parents, caregivers and educators often think of play as the “child’s work.” Unlike “adult work”, children benefit from adult support (scaffolding) to experience rich, flexible and robust play ideas and experiences. Research indicates that “play” is important for healthy brain development, and through their play experiences, children engage and interact with the world.

Parents and caregivers are a child’s first “toy.” Our interactions and responses help a child engage with the world in a caring, responsive, and co-regulated way. Simple reactions to a baby’s sounds, coos and smiles are the foundation for playful engagement. For example, playing simple games such as peek-a-boo and hide-and-seek can help a child begin to anticipate, sequence, and have some control of their experiences.

Toys are important for exploration and the development of representational and symbolic play. Playtime with toys, games, books and peers lead to important problem solving skills. However, parents, caregivers and peers continue to be an important part of the foundation for growth. It is through shared ideas that a child develops and grows toward higher levels of cognitive thought.

Play allows a child to use their creativity while developing imagination as well as cognitive, emotional, and physical strengths. Play can also give children mastery over difficult feelings through a safe world of make believe. These feelings are normal. It is the adult who can acknowledge the feelings and then help in a safe way to incorporate them into play. The child feels powerful and safe because of the adult’s support and limit setting.

The narratives we help our children build from infancy help them to engage in a robust way with their world. It is important to support their imagination and to help them develop the social back and forth skills needed in play, in relationships, and in learning.

Micki Somerman
Educator and Developmental Therapist

Beth Osten & Associates, Pediatric Therapy Services

Greetings From the Art Room!

The children are off to a wonderful start in Art class! So far, we have had three sessions together and have been very busy learning about the Elements of Art, specifically, Line, Shape, Color and Form.  The children have been exploring these concepts through our class discussions, hands on activities and looking at examples of famous artwork from different artists throughout history.

We have explored fun ways to make lines using different mediums. As a class, we discussed and drew all of the unique types of lines that we could think of and the children rotated through 5 different creation stations.  They walked on giant line segments taped to the floor, created line collages with various sized paper strips, traced lines in colored art sand, practiced drawing different types of lines individually with markers, and lastly made a large group line sculpture out of pipe cleaners.   Everyone really enjoyed moving through the different activities and discovering lots of ways to create and identify lines.

During our color lesson, we talked about the concept of the color wheel with its three primary colors and three secondary colors.  After showing them how each are mixed together to form a new color, students were able to do their own mixing with tempera paint.  Since our session was close to Halloween, we used air-dry clay to form a small pumpkin and then the children mixed yellow and red paint to create their own orange color.  We will be revisiting color and form in the months to come with new projects to reinforce these basic art elements.

During our most recent lesson, we talked about shapes and the difference between organic/natural shapes and geometric shapes.   After identifying all the shapes we already knew (square, circle, rectangle, triangle, diamond, heart, pentagon, hexagon, octagon) we turned our attention to leaves and the incredible natural shapes we see every day outside.  We read the book Leaf Man by Lois Elhert and made our own leaf creatures with contact paper.  The end result was quite imaginative and everyone did a fantastic job.  Unfortunately, the dryness of my room really took a toll on these amazing pictures and caused the leaves to curl and become very brittle.   Please take extra care!

It’s been a pleasure getting to know your son or daughter these last couple of months.  We will be continuing to learn about the Elements of Art with more art lessons and activities this winter, and moving into our Art Through the Ages

Thank You!
Carole Nimrod
SLC Art Teacher

Carole has been inspiring children at SLC for the last 7 years. She has 20 years of experience teaching art to children of all ages. Carole’s hope is to provide the children at SLC an appreciation for the artist’s creative process, an exposure to art history, and cultivate an awareness of art in the environment.

New Beginnings

A new school year brings excitement – a chance to start fresh, a sense of structure and routine that is comforting, and even a little concern about the unknown. For most of the children there are new teachers, many faces and names to learn and expectations different from last year.

To ensure that this transition to the new school year is smooth for the children in our classrooms, we are intentionally building a sense of community where they feel safe, cared for and comfortable. We start each day with the “Morning Meeting” where we greet one another and share thoughts and ideas. This time of day helps all the children feel welcome and appreciated. Also, during an activity called “Turn and Talk” the children are paired with a partner and encouraged to practice their speaking and listening skills while connecting with a new friend. Lastly, making a list of “Classroom Promises” together creates a positive environment and gives the children ownership over their new community.

As I visit the classrooms, not only do I see meaningful whole group activities taking place, I also notice the teachers making connections individually by giving hugs, reading a favorite book in the library or facilitating a small group of new friends as they build a tall tower. It’s this combination of whole group community building and individual connections that makes this transition time a bit easier for the children, especially those who may need a little more time to feel comfortable. With consistent intentional community building (and a little patience!), it won’t be long before the classroom feels like home to everyone.

Katie Kelly
Associate Director