- Don’t forget the hugs!
It is December and many are completing their second semester of the very interesting 2020-2021 school year. By now your school has either returned completely face-to-face, remained remote or are currently doing the hybrid model (both remote and face-to-face). The one common issue with all three models is that everyone is tired. Parents and caregivers, teachers, administrations, support staff and especially our kids.
During this time we have to make sure that we are checking in on our children to assess and provide opportunities for their emotional, physical, and academic growth. Emotionally children are missing out on the physical presence of their caring teachers. Even the students who are in person are often discouraged from having physical contact with their teachers and their peers. Often our school-age children are considered more independent and do not require as many hugs and touch, but they do. Whiddon and Montgomery (2011) reported that children who received more touch presented with fewer symptoms of psychological issues. So during this time take some time to share more hugging and cuddling moments while engaging in conversations. Here are some ideas for making sure your child gets enough nonaggressive touch:
- cuddle on the couch and watch a movie
- lay on the floor together and share a book
- put on music and dance together
- lay next to them at bedtime and ask about their feelings
- have family group hugs
- give a pat on the back
- share a blanket together while watching TV
These past months we have sterilized our homes, masked up, and kept our distance. While we work on remaining safe and healthy we have to actively work on making sure our children do not suffer from our social distancing. Let’s make sure that we are making time for hugs.
In twenty-twenty children have also reduced their physical activity. In our next post, we will look at some ways to facilitate physical growth.
- Addressing Race
5 things to say & do when race enters your therapy room.
Once again our country is being forced to face the reality that many of us as Black people in America understood to be true for over 400 years, that our lives are not valued as high as other human beings in this nation.
As a wife of a Black man, mother of three Black children and a speech-language pathologist who serve a caseload of 80% Black students, I feel deep in my soul it is our responsibility to help our children understand what is happening, why it is happening and that they will be the change. If we all teach our children the importance of equality and the ugly, negative, and deadly impact of inequality and systemic racism has on communities, we will change the future.
I’ve read many comments on the various SLP social pages where many SLPs voiced their opposition and did not think it was appropriate for race to be injected into our profession. I strongly disagree, according to the National Institue of Deafness and other Communication Disorders (2017)
“Nearly one in 10, or 9.6 percent, of black children (ages 3-17) has a voice, speech, language, or swallowing disorder, compared to 7.8 percent of White children and 6.9 percent of Hispanic children.”
“Boys ages 3-17 are more likely than girls to have a voice, speech, language, or swallowing disorder (9.6 percent compared to 5.7 percent).1Quick Statistics About Voice, Speech, Language. (2017, December 21). Retrieved from https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/statistics/quick-statistics-voice-speech-language
This information indicates that most often the majority of our caseloads will include black males. There are also reports of significant increases in minority children identified with Autism. I know most of our graduate schools did not prepare us with proper multicultural issues in our profession but it can not be an excuse. Our small group/ one on one settings makes the SLPs the person many of our students trust the most. Some of your students will seek your communication and need your help to understand what is happening. How do we do that? How do we prepare our children to be better than what we have been in the past so that equality can be bigger than racism?
If you are an SLP or parent and do not know how to talk about race. Here are 5 suggestions on how to address race when it comes up. I’ve used these with my own groups and with my own children. This is a simple way to address the topic when it comes up.
1. Talk & Acknowledge Talk with your students or children. They are piecing sound bites, videos, pictures, and conversations together and they don’t understand. My seven year old asked, “why are people marching, didn’t we do that a long time ago?” That’s from a child who is a reader, knows a lot about Black History, and has been part of many discussions. In the fall, the topic will come up. We have to be the ones to help them understand.
Many may feel it is not their role to talk about this topic. I absolutely disagree. We serve children with special needs that require alternative and individualized modes of instruction. We are mandated to help prepare our students for academic and future endeavors. We are equipped to help our students with comprehension and that includes, history, social studies, and adaptive skills. You don’t have to have a complete lesson but don’t ignore students who ask and acknowledge their concerns and curiosity.
2. Tell the Truth: We have to be truthful with our children about this nation’s past. We can not sugar coat what has happened to bring the Black Community to be equated with something negative. We have to understand true history. No slaves were not happy with their slave owners, no they were not treated well, no slavery was not just working for free. No, when slaves were “freed” they were not freed. Yes, there were laws passed to prevent Black people from experiencing the American Dream. Yes, there were white people who fought alongside black people for equality. Tell the truth.
3. Teach Empathy: For something to be important to you, you have to have a personal stake in it. No, white people can not step into Black people’s skin but they can imagine if it were you. Imagine if in every aspect of our society your race has the worst of it. Education, health, safety, economics, housing, and job opportunities. We have to ask our children how would they feel if it were you. This is not just for white people, black people will have to do this too because our children do not know about these things until they are older. If we wait that long then it may be too late.
4. Take Action: Share with your students what they can do to practice treating their peers kindly right at school. Many schools use anti-bullying curriculums, school-wide behavior interventions, to let them know that what they have to do is what they are asked to do every day in school, in regards to interacting with their peers.
5. Support & Refer: Reassure your children that you can’t control what others may do but when they are in your presence they are safe, they are loved and valued. Let them know that anyone who doesn’t think they can do great things in this world are wrong. Reassure them that you know this as a fact and every time you see them you remind them of their greatness. Always tell your students to talk to their parents for more information and to make sure they share their feelings with their parents.
Here are 5 things you should NOT do:
- Provide your personal beliefs in the conversation (i.e., politics, religion). Stick to the facts.
- Have students reenact past events. Students do not need to reenact an event to share empathy.
- Do not allow one group of students to blame another group of students.
- If the topic arises do not shut your students up without taking, often a short time to provide accurate information.
- Do not connect negative behavior or stereotypes as a consequence of what has happened to Black People.
How race connects academically.
In my groups race usually comes up during Dr. Martin Luther King’s holiday and Black History Month. In the fall, hot topics will be COVID19 and Race. The topic of race falls under social studies, history, math (statistics), geography, and probably every other academic subject. You could target sequencing of events, understanding present, past, future; introduce vocabulary, discuss government, compare and contrast. The idea is not to provide your views but to adapt a very complex issue so that our students understand what’s happening around them. We are therapists working in educational settings and we have to provide therapy while educating our students.
Race has never been an easy issue and it will continue to be a touchy subject. However, you may be the person students seek to learn from and I hope this will give you some ideas on how to effectively address this topic.
- 5 Positives of Sheltering in Place
March 13, 2020, will be etched in my memory as the time my family, school, state, and most of the nation’s education system was restructured. The way we taught and provided services were forever changed and I believe it will never be the same. On March 13th we were told that we will be out of school for two weeks and teachers rushed to provide work packets and in the upper elementary grades, they planned to do work online. Therapists were not sure what our roles would be or how services would be provided. We all scurried around reading, messaging, watching every free webinar on the hot word of the season “teletherapy”. This therapist and every other therapist in my district, state, nation, school-based, private, EI, etc were all heading for the Teletherapy train.
I knew a little about teletherapy. I actually applied to provide teletherapy when we first moved to Louisiana. Nothing really came of it. I never did pursue it again. Now, there was no pursuing needed, this was a must. Seven weeks later and we are still out of school and won’t be back for the remainder of the school year. Sadly, there are rumors that we won’t be back in early August either. I really am praying that that is not the case. I love being home but I love having all 62 of my students in one place. So, to make the time enjoyable, I always try to find the positive in a situation and I have come to find that sheltering in place has many positive aspects.
Here are 5 Positives of Shelter in Place
- Slowing down: I do not have to wake up early or get any of my three kids ready for school. Mornings and Sunday evenings are relaxed, slow and pleasant (unless someone just can’t get up).
- Family Time: Although my teen and preteen daughters enjoy being away from their parents, we have shared some good talks, laughs and family time together.
- Learning New Skills: I have learned and tried so many new things: twisted my own hair, tried new recipes (baked donuts), learned new tech skills, created interactive activities just to name a few. The best part is that these are skills that I will use for years to come.
- Reflection: Having quiet time to think about what’s important and being present in the moment. My husband and I walk together every afternoon and we just talk and give thanks.
- Simplifying: During these past 7 weeks, I’ve learned there is so much I don’t have to have or do and I like that. I would say we have saved money but it’s going to groceries and home projects.
5 Positives of Speech-Language Teletherapy
- Proximity: Everything is on my computer. I don’t have to clean toys, pick up game chips, go and get students, or drive to daycare centers. Everything is right here within reach.
- Parent Involvement: The parents of my Pk students and students with Autism are right there during the sessions and I get to coach them on how to facilitate language and model desired results. Being able to coach parents in the moment is something school-based therapists rarely get to do. This really is one of my favorite things about Teletherapy.
- Proof: Teletherapy has provided proof that SLPs don’t play games. Parents, caretakers, and even my own family get to witness what I do every day. My kids and husband have never witnessed me in a therapy session, they knew what I did but now they know what I do.
- Change: Teletherapy provides a change in how I provide treatment and the type of treatment I provide. I now serve my students and their parents. I’ve consoled, coached, and cheered for some of my parents during this time. It’s nice to have those connections.
- Learning Opportunities: I am learning so much so fast. ASHA is even allowing free courses until June! Seven weeks ago I had never logged on to Zoom or Google classroom and now I know them as well as I know the speech materials I’ve had for 20 years. I’ve sat through so many webinars on how to start Teletherapy, materials to use, platforms to use, online dos and don’ts, how to serve PK, serve children with Autism and so much more.
This has all been unexpected, new, and weird. Two weeks of shelter in place has turned into over 9 weeks (and counting) of remote learning and teletherapy services. With all that is negative about this situation, sitting and reflecting on the positive reminds me that the sun is always there in place; you just have to wait for the clouds to move out of the way.
- Black HistoryYou still have time to share and teach your little ones about the contributions of African Americans to our American History. The shortest month of the year is always slammed packed with so many different subjects you can experience with your child. To begin February we observe Black History Month. Then there is Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, if you live in Louisiana or neighboring state you may also have Mardi Gras and this year we have Leap Day. Not to mention February falls in the middle of winter and weather is one of my favorite themes. However, if you don’t have enough time to target every February celebration and had to pick one, I would choose black history. It is important for us as parents, educators, and therapists to help preserve true history, especially during these times where racial tensions and negatives view about minorities’ abilities, worth and contribution to our nation are increasing. Despite some of the negative talking points African Americans continue to excel and it is important for our children to know that the opportunities they enjoy now were not always available. It is also important to showcase some of the characteristics all these historical figures have in common (see vocabulary list). If you want to end the month with a bang here are 5 ways to make it meaningful.
- Familiar/Unfamiliar: When sharing historical figures pick some not so famous ones.
- Variety: Choose a variety of people: men, women, children, past/present, literary, athletic, innovators, scientists, leaders, entertainers…
- Pace: you want your little one to understand and appreciate what you are sharing, so take your time, pace yourself. You can do this all year long.
- Personal Interest: Choose people that would personally pique your child’s interest. For instance, if your child enjoys dancing, pick iconic performers. Have a Super Soaker at home, share the true story.
- Connect: Share with your child why Black History is important and how it impacts them today and what they can do to preserve the legacy and build upon it.
- Don’t forget to introduce and use new vocabulary (see above).
- The Undefeated has a great list with beautiful pictures of 44 Undefeated African Americans in History there is also a book available.
- One of my favorite illustrators is Vashti Harrison she has a series of “Little” books of Legends, Dreamers and Leaders. They are so beautiful and one page read. You can not go wrong with these books. My 7 year old loves them.
- A sweet video to watch is the now Oscar-Winning Short film Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry. This video is special to me because I have 3 daughters and when they were younger my husband made sure their hair was done before I would leave. There is also a book and guess who created the beautiful illustrations, yup the one and only Vashti Harrison.
- I love Brain Pop Jr., they have a video biography of Ruby Bridges with a quiz to follow. Don’t worry you don’t need a subscription to view it in February. Tip: Ask your child’s teacher if the school uses Brain Pop Jr. your child may have a user name and passcode to access all the videos.
- The African American Literature Book Club has a list of 150 Recommended African American Children’s Book. This list is expansive but is a good list too if you are searching for good books.