Guest Post: What does an Early Childhood Educator do?#manvsautism #autism

 

I have never had anyone ask to share a post on my blog before. I had so many questions whirling around my brain. What would they write? Would it be good? Is it something interesting? Will there be astute pop culture references sprinkled throughout?  Turns out I had nothing to worry about.  The ladies from @LearnSafari put together a great piece about early childhood educators. I hope you enjoy and share.

Toby- #manvsautism

 

As an early childhood educator, my job is to teach young children and support their families as they transition through every area of development. Although it’s not glamorous or very lucrative, it is extremely rewarding! The early years of childhood are crucial and as teachers, we get to take advantage of this time to mold children and give them the basic skills that will dictate their ability to learn and relate to others for the rest of their lives. We help influence how and why children learn, we help teach them to love reading, we help them learn how to form healthy relationships, and we are the ones who will help moms and dads wade across those crazy and emotional first few years of a child’s life. We are also partners with parents when children show some development and/or learning delays; when it comes to learning issues, there are a few things that we want you, as parents, to know!

 

 

  1. We intentionally observe your child
    As a teacher, one of the most crucial tasks I perform is that of child observation. We conduct several different types of observations, including development assessments, knowledge assessments, observations while they are on the playground, observations during free play, during circle time, during small groups, etc. We are on the lookout for skills the children need to work on in order to keep moving forward. As an objective observer (so difficult because we come to love all the children as our own) we will screen for developmental delays or difficulties, and if we notice issues in which a child is struggling, we will look for tools and activities that can help that child master, or at least improve, a skill. There are times, however, when the issue at hand points to a need for further assessment and intervention. This is one of the most difficult parts of the job, where we have to bring our concerns to parents, who often times have an extremely difficult time hearing that there is “something wrong” with their child.

 

Please hear us when we say that there is nothing ¨wrong¨ with your child. We love the children that we teach and when we come to you with a concern, it’s because we want to do what is best for the kids. We know that children develop at different rates, they have different skills and abilities, and they have different struggles. We want to make sure they get the necessary intervention as early as possible, so that they can learn to work to overcome their struggles.

 

  1. We individualize learning and focus on the specific needs of your child

 

One of the benefits of being an early childhood educator, is that our teacher to student ratios are favorable and strict. We are not overwhelmed with an unmanageable number of children and we take steps to work with each child’s individual and specific needs.

 

When we notice developmental delays in a child, we do not automatically assume they have a specific issue that needs to be diagnosed. We do not assume that they have autism, or ADHD, or that they may be dyslexic. We are not trying to label children. Instead, we devise a specific plan to help children overcome any problems and further their growth and learning. We realize that sometimes children just need opportunities to learn and practice new skills and that all children develop at different rates.

 

  1. Seeking out Intervention

 

After working with your child for a significant amount of time (remember, we spend a lot of time with them on a daily basis) we may not see any growth or improvement and we may even notice other issues that he or she may be dealing with. It is at this point that we will need to seek out intervention.

 

Our job is not to diagnose! As an early childhood educator, I may have ample experience with children who have a variety of learning delays, but I am not a clinician. It would be irresponsible of me to give a specific diagnosis, but it would be equally irresponsible of me to not fill you in on my concerns. I would first request a conference with you and go over any assessments and observations that I have on your child. I would go over the growth they have experienced and I would talk to you about the milestones and standards that children at your child’s specific age are usually meeting. I would then offer you an opportunity to have someone from an intervention program work with your child and I would also recommend that you take these concerns to your doctor.

 

At this point, I have done my due diligence and I will continue to work with your child. However, I cannot force a parent to take these issues seriously and I can’t even ask for help without a parent’s consent. But please, please do not ignore a teacher who comes to you with concerns! Maybe the teacher is wrong, but the worst thing that could happen is that you see a professional who puts your mind at ease. If there are issues, then the earlier you find intervention for your child, the better for your child’s development and quality of life!

 
As teachers, sometimes need help! We don’t always know how to specifically reach your child, but if we work together with you and with other experts, we can provide the very best framework for your child’s development. When developmental delays are noticed early, and a child is provided with the tools and experiences that are appropriate for their individual needs, the rate of success they experience in their lives is so much greater. We need to be partners with you in your child’s development journey and as teachers, we are here to support you!

 

 

Again, even if you discover that your child has a learning delay or disability, we want you to know that there is nothing wrong with your child. For parents, discovering that their children are struggling in certain areas, can be a very emotional and trying time. It’s important to remember that children can fulfil their enormous potential when we offer them support and opportunities. Children should always be given opportunities to explore art, music, language, science, and any other area of interest that will be enriching to their personal experience. Don’t be afraid of exposing them to new things just because they might be struggling in other areas and always remember that your child’s teachers are always on your side!

 

About the author

A graduate from the University of Florida, Keli Garcia Allen is a certified Spanish teacher and currently works as a preschool teacher in a bilingual classroom. She is the Lead Content creator for Learn Safari. She is currently working with her team on the development of their first learning program, Spanish Safari, an online game that will help children from ages 5 to 9 learn and practice Spanish. She is a blogger, a public speaker, and a mommy to two beautiful, bilingual daughters.

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Your Focus Determines Your Reality

Your Focus Determines Your Reality

Qui Gon Jinn

 I was on my tippy toes, crouched like a catcher begging my daughter to pee in a cup. You could hear her voicing her protests. “Goodbye!” “See you later!” “Time to go!” She took the little bucket that fit over the toilet and threw it across the room. Those were her unique ways of letting us know she was mad! I couldn’t really blame her. Let’s be realistic, most typical teens would not want their dads in the bathroom trying to help them pee in a cup. Yelling, kicking, and pushing be darned I was going to get that urine sample. Did I get it? Yeah, I got it. She filled the cup and pushed me away. I held on to the cup and ended up wearing most of its contents. Most, not all! I had just enough left in the cup to help the doctor run her tests. I was on the bathroom floor, covered in pee, smiling because I won!

Meanwhile at the Store….
We were checking out. We had picked up everything on the list.

 

Cookies  CHECK

Microwave Popcorn CHECK

Bug Spray Check

Coke a Cola  CHECK

 

It was a Saturday. The store was super busy, but so far the whole trip was going well. I turned to load a few bags into my cart and my son took off for the back of the store. What do I do? I looked at the apathetic cashier. No help. I looked at the seven others in line behind me. They were as helpful as the cashier. I looked at my youngest and set her loose!

“MK go get him!” She over mothers her older brother and was an eager to track him down. She took off right behind him. After a second or two, no one came back. So I left my groceries, the cashier, and the line to go track down my kids. I found my son and daughter a few aisles back. He had picked up a toy lightsaber and was trying to open a Hello Kitty Pinata. It was awesome. I quickly got everyone back to the line and paid for our groceries. The cashier was not helpful and no one in line was happy. It didn’t matter we were still winning.  

That night at the movies….

 

We were having a great night. We were finally getting to see Captain America:CIVIL WAR! The story was great. Spider-Man was truly amazing. The scene at the airport was epic. Everything going according to plan. The Dude was great. He was happy. I was happy. Then SPOILER ALERT War Machine got hurt. He was accidentally blasted and was plummeting to ground with Iron Man and Falcon trying to catch him. As soon as he hit the ground, McKade yelled out, “OH MY GOD THEY HURT BLACK IRON MAN!” Now, I have never heard McKade identify anyone by their color before. The best we can determine is that he called him Black Iron Man because War Machine’s suit is dark grey and black. We knew that… no one else in the theater did. Thank goodness everyone in the theater who could have been offended laughed when he said it. They also laughed when I tried to correct him.

Me (whispering)- McKade, Black Iron Man’s name is Rhodey. Call him Rhodey.

McKade (not whispering) – Black Iron Man’s name is Rhodey. We will call Black Iron Man Rhodey. The rest of the movie went off without any more uncomfortable moments. We were still winning.  

Winning what? Our Sanity. Like Qui Gon Jinn said, “Your focus determines your reality.” In all of those situations we could have freaked out. We could have yelled. We could have been mortified. In the thirteen years that we have been autism parents, we have had hundreds of situations where we did freak out and had meltdowns too. Those things did not improve our situations and were so counterproductive to what we wanted to teach our kids.

Focus on the good when things go wrong.  Yes, at the doctor I ended up with pee all over me. But, I got the sample. We found out what was wrong with Addison and got her medicine. All of those things are good. At the store, well, the store was just funny. How many times do you get to see someone take a lightsaber to Hello Kitty? In hindsight, I was proud of my daughter for being fearless enough to track him down and stay with him until I could get to both of them. Which, believe it or not, is something we have discussed, planned, and practiced.  A few years ago, we could not even sit through a movie without 2 buckets of popcorn, 25 bathroom trips, and about 2 meltdowns. He said a few embarrassing things,but he made it through the whole movie.

What you focus on will determine what you take from every situation. Focus on the good and ignore the bad. Smile when you feel like yelling (even if you are covered in pee). Breath when you feel like freaking out. Laugh as much as you can whenever you can.

The Secret Word is Play!

I am no scientist. I have no white lab coat. I am not going to quote a bunch of data. I am just a dad and an educator trying to learn how to help kids.  Kids can learn while they play. Today at school while my son was playing, we had a major break through.

My son, The Dude, has autism.  He would fall on the more severe end of the autism spectrum, but is still quite high functioning. He can answer some questions in context. However, he is still working on initiating appropriate conversation on his own. One of his favorite actors is Pee Wee Herman. We have DVDs of PeeWee’s Playhouse. We have watched his Christmas special on Netflix more times than we watched “It’s a Wonderful Life.” He thinks Pee Wee is just hilarious.  McKade found a toy pop up tent used by classmates to read and or calm down in. He took some paper, tape, crayons, glue, and a little help from his teachers and transformed that tent!

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World, I would like you to meet Mr. Tent. A walking talking Pee Wee’s Playhouse piece of furniture come to life!  Now, this may not seem like a big deal to you, but this is HUGE! Thanks to this opportunity to “Play” or “ACT” The Dude becomes Mr. Tent. Mr. Tent has his own voice and personality.  You can ask Mr. Tent questions, and he will answer you. He will even start his own conversation with you.  He can tell you how he is feeling that day. He will tell you he likes climbing on the monkey bars. He even will remind you to wear a helmet when riding a bike.  Mr. Tent was even able to answer questions about a story “HE” read in class recently.

Just by taking a few minutes to encourage him to play, his teachers helped him stumble on an interest based outlet to communicate in ways he never has before!  So thank you awesome teachers. Thank you Pee Wee’s Playhouse! The Secret Word is PLAY! Any time you hear the secret word scream real loud!

Mr. Tent Drinks Water

Click the link above to watch Mr. Tent come to life!

May the force be with you,

@JediPadmaster

#ManvsAutism #ParentLikeAJedi

 

The Almost True Adventures of Tytus the Monkey #WorldAutismDay

This is a story I wrote to be made into a picture book. My wife and I are still working on the illustrations. It is based on mostly true events. Taking our kids with autism and our monkey to the store is always eventful.  In honor of World Autism Day we wanted to share this story with others!
Thank you for reading and sharing.
TP @JediPadMaster

 

People said that Tytus Monkey was evil. He was always getting into trouble.

 

It could have been because Tytus was irritated by so many things.

 

He was afraid of bugs, especially cockroaches.

He couldn’t stand it when people were singing.

Plus, he had an utter distrust of all rhinoceroses.

 

Tytus didn’t detest everything. He loved the three children who had adopted him as their own. They taught him so many things.

 

The yellow-haired girl taught him to read.

The red-haired girl showed him how to paint.

The dude helped him roller-skate all through the house.

 

They had many things in common too.

 

All four of them loved eating waffles.

They loved climbing high.

They all loved painting.

They all loved swimming.

Most of all, they loved going to the store.

 

Tytus loved walking up to the big store to see the way the doors went Woosh!

Tytus loved how everyone had a job at the store. The red-haired girl and yellow-haired girl had to hold the cart, while the dude rode inside. It was Tytus’s job to ride underneath the buggy while the Boss Lady, the three kid’s mother, did the shopping.

Everyone was content.

Everything was great…until it wasn’t.

 

The lights were too buzzy. The registers were too beepy. The broken wheel on the cart was too bangy. Tytus knew what was coming next. The red-haired girl started to get upset. Her hands started flapping. Her eyes started blinking, and she began to cry.

 

“I would never let my daughter act like that in a store!” said a lady in a blue dress with white hair. Tytus didn’t like this lady. She smelled like cheese.

 

“She has autism,” said Boss Lady. “She gets overwhelmed and can’t tell us why because she can’t talk very well.”

 

The Lady Who Smelled Like Cheese was not a nice person and replied, “Just because she can’t talk doesn’t mean you can’t teach her some manners.”

 

Tytus didn’t always understand why people said what they said, but he knew that the Lady Who Smelled Like Cheese was being mean to the Red-Haired Girl. That bothered Tytus more than bugs, singing, and rhinoceroses.

 

Tytus thought about what the Lady Who Smelled Like Cheese said, and it gave him an idea.

“I can’t talk, but I can definitely teach that lady a lesson,” thought Tytus.

 

Tytus crept over to the Lady Who Smelled Like Cheese’s shopping cart and loosened the top on her dish detergent, just enough that it started to drip, drop, and plop onto the floor.

 

When the Lady Who Smelled Like Cheese put one foot into the soapy puddle, she slid all the way across the floor.

She fell into the cage-free eggs.

The eggs tumbled onto a store employee carrying a box of Granny Smith apples.

The store employee dropped his apples, and the box went CRACK as it exploded on the floor.

The Boss Lady stumbled on the apples and lost control of her shopping cart. The cart, with the dude inside, collided with the organic milk display.

The tall milk tower started to lean. It teetered, it tottered, and it toppled over the nearby soda display.

A gigantic milk and soda tidal wave covered everyone. The entire back of the store was a slippery, gooey, bubbly mess.

 

Tytus thought it was hilarious…until it wasn’t.

The store manager charged down the aisle like an angry rhinoceros. The Boss Lady was coated in eggs. The Lady Who Smelled Like Cheese looked like a volcano ripe to erupt.

 

Just before everyone’s tempers detonated, the red-haired girl walked over to the egg-soaked Lady Who Smelled Like Cheese. She grabbed the Lady by the hand and helped her back on her feet. Then the dude started to put all of her groceries back in her cart. Next, the yellow-haired girl grabbed some paper towels and started to clean up the mess. Slowly, all the people in the store started to clean, talk, and laugh about what had just happened.

 

The red-haired girl may not be able to speak, but she taught Tytus a lesson that day. If you are out in the world and can’t find a nice person, you should be one.

 

Tytus decided he was going to be nice and kind from now on…at least until he wasn’t.

 

Toby Price author

jtobyprice@gmail.com

@JediPadmaster on Twitter

Kids are awesome! #manvsautism

My wife has been subbing in 5th grade for the last few weeks. The other day during recess, #TheDude ‘s class was out at recess while they were. All of their teachers do an amazing job of making sure they are around typical kids as much as possible. (Not just at recess) I went outside to say hi, and check on all of them. I saw my wife speaking to #TheDude .  I could tell he was in trouble just by reading their body language. I was right.

He had peed on an anthill during recess. My wife and I both were upset. Mostly, for him. We always fear that they will do something that draws unneeded attention to themselves. But something odd happened. No one laughed. No one pointed. They were not talking about it at all. It only happened for a few seconds before he was corrected.  The kids were totally understanding. But, they did not stop there. Some of the boys could tell Mrs. Price was still upset about what had  happened. They came to her later that day and said, “Mrs. Price, I pee on anthills all the time at home. I like watching the ants run around. I bet #TheDude did too. It’s not a big deal.”  Several of the kids echoed their own peeing on anthill stories during the rest of the day. They all said the same thing. We did it too. It’s not a big deal. I am so grateful to work with such awesome kiddos.

MTFBWY

TP @JediPadmaster

It made me think of this awesome Kid President quote.

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My 9 year old therapist… #manvsautism

 

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The other day my kids iPad mini was bricked by the iOS 9.3 update. It would go online, but would not connect to the app store or any other apple server. The browsers were not working correctly either. I went through all the normal steps I knew to try and reboot it and or restore it.  We don’t have a working home button so a hard restore was impossible. I was running out of ideas. I am supposed to be able to fix anything. I could not connect to the apple server to turn off find my iPad to restore through iTunes.  It was late in the day. I was out of options. I did the one thing tech guys loathe doing… I called tech support. Before I got on the phone with someone, I found a reset that actually worked. I had to start back over from scratch with everything.  I could download some of the kiddos favorite apps so, I was happy.

When I finally got home that day my tech Cheese touch continued.  When I walked in the door, Leah had that look. The look that matched the sound coming out of Addison’s room. She was howling. For some reason, the kids iPads were all asking for our home wifi password. Which thanks to AT&T, is a cryptic mix of numbers, letters, underscores, hieroglyphics, and punctuation marks. Basically, it was hard to put in for kiddos with fine motor skills. It is almost impossible to type in while two of those kids are pretty ticked off that the internet isn’t working. I got a hold of each device and got them all back online. Everyone was happy. Everyone except me. I could not get my mac air to sign in. I tried everything. I was tired. I needed to work on my book. I broke down and called tech support. Yup, two times in one day. I am so glad I did too. I never would have known to do the trick the very kind lady on the phone taught me. She got me back online in no time. But then I worried. I call myself the @JediPadmaster. I am supposed to be able to speak to the tech with my mind. Am I slipping? Have I lost my touch? Am I going towards the Dark Side? Is my lightsaber even real? Is it just a toy from the Walmart?

I was asking these questions out loud while getting ready for school the next day. MKP answered & decided to help clear it up for me….

MKP our 9 yr old… Dad, the problems you had with the computers were not because you were losing your Jedi Powers. Jedi are fictional characters from a movie. (She went all Affleck in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back)

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She was not done. “I think it’s cool that you have an active imagination, but you are not a real Jedi. You are just really smart with computers and stuff. Plus, calling tech support is smart. It is ok to ask for help if you run into a problem you don’t understand. You are still a Jedi if you believe you are…”

She’s my 9 year old therapist. I wanted to be mad for the whole Jedi are fictional characters comment but she was spot on. I said, “Hmm you are right! I am a Jedi! Plus, my lightsaber is real!”

Believe… May the force be with you!

TP @jedipadmaster

 

She gave me my kid back… I was glad to return the favor

Earlier today, I heard someone’s horn honking in the front yard. Most of us would not think twice about it, but we aren’t most people. Because our kids have autism, and have left the house so many times on their own, we jump when someone honks near our house. I went outside and found cars backed up and down the street. They were desperately trying to corral a small friend who had left their house with out a grown up.

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She was adorable. She came right to me. I was super worried that someone had hit her with a car she was a little wobbly. We didn’t put her on Facebook or list her as found because she was a fancy dog. Pugs like her, would have had everyone and their mother coming to tell me she “belonged” to them. We were just going to watch the message boards and take her to our vet to see if she was chipped.

 

I admit, I spent the whole day snuggled up with her and was becoming attached. We leave the windows open a lot. Around 7:30, I saw a car driving slowly down our street. Their windows were down.  They even had their flashers on. I could have ignored it. Kept the awesome puppy, but I knew I could not do that.My conscious would have worn me down.  I went outside, sat down and waited.  Eventually that car came back up our street. I stopped her and asked her what was wrong. She said she was looking for her pug puppy. I took her inside and Leah helped reunite them.  I was sad, but grateful I did the right thing. The lady was super sweet and the puppy, Gracie, was so glad to see her owner. After she left, Leah looked me in the eyes and said you did the right thing. Yeah, I know. She said, “Do you know who that lady is?” Umm not really.

Seven years ago, that nice lady heard her dogs barking around two am.  When she went to check on them, she saw my Addison, six years old, at the time running down the street. She knew about Addy but wasn’t sure where she lived. She knew she needed to call the police. Because of this nice lady, the firemen, paramedics, and police were able to get Addison back to us. I was super happy to return the favor today.  It’s amazing how everything happens for a reason.