Dr. Serena Wieder, Profectum Foundation
First and foremost, we hope you and your families are healthy and staying safe.
We are all experiencing great stress given the uncertainty that surrounds us. So many suggestions are coming our way, that even good ideas can at times feel demanding and just too much! And we all wonder how long this pandemic will last? We now know it will be a prolonged period and will reach far and wide. I would like to think about some ideas that might be helpful to all caregivers, and to you to reduce stress!
Anxiety and stress impact all of us in situations we cannot control, especially during this transition to the “new normal” for ourselves and our children.
My question is what will help you alleviate some of the stress, to stay calm, contain anxieties and be present for your family? It is easy to say care for yourself and give yourself some space and some time to think about what would be helpful to you. We are facing so many demands caring for our children all day, meals, setting them up for school, keeping everyone occupied, thinking of all the activities we should try as you are now teacher, therapist, floor time player, and also doing your own work at home while you worry about your partner who may be working out of the home. And what about finances, your parents, your siblings and friends, and and and …
Coping with all this may depend, in part, on knowing yourself.
Is it time to take a deep breath and think about what might work for you, the break you need, or what has worked when you were under stress in the past, and what are you missing now. Take a few minutes to reflect on how you have dealt with stress and what you learned about yourself that might remind you of your inner strengths or recognize pitfalls. As a parent, you probably mobilized in the interest of your child or, like many of us, at times found yourself yelling in distress. What did you wish you would have done instead? Perhaps you need to get up a half-hour earlier to face the day before the kids jump on you? Do you need to talk to a friend or relative about your feelings, or do you really want to talk about something else? Perhaps you too miss social time and want to have a cup of tea with a friend and find a good book or movie you could both watch and discuss after the kids are in bed. Or, try a mindfulness or Yoga activity together? Or, just connect and empathize, to feel you are not alone and pick up some words of wisdom. Perhaps, just do nothing for a while. Do these ideas seem unrealistic to you? Are you thinking, doesn’t she know how much I have to do, how overwhelmed I feel and now she asks me to reflect!
Yes, reflection and knowing yourself is a way to cope with stress and keep perspective.
Now is the time to give yourself credit, to cope with your response to the challenge through reflection about how you feel, who you are and remember you know yourself and your family better than anyone. Reflect on what is or is not working and describe what is happening without judgment and with forgiveness in order to clear a path for what does work. “Talk” about it with yourself or with someone you trust, and acknowledge when you were upset or got overwhelmed. Being mindful will help you consider other options; perhaps you will take another approach, or determine to try harder to control what you can, or be more organized tomorrow, “I will give myself more time for…” Keep in mind no judgement, understanding and self-acceptance. Sometimes self-reflection does not feel like its enough to reduce your stress, and it may be time to seek a therapist for support.
Being reflective can become a practice and will help you also be reflective with your children, to pause and think about what they are experiencing and express your empathy and understanding of the stress they experience.
Be reassuring of the efforts to help us all that are underway, e.g. doctors are working night and day to help us. Reflection also helps you differentiate your feelings from theirs, to listen and be forgiving, accepting them, and expressing your love and help to problem solve together. The outcome may be to enjoy something together, lots of hugs, and restore the security and importance of your relationship. Build a platform for reflection within you and you will find your strength, stability and build on the relationships that anchor your family and you in these trying times.
Profectum would like to share guidelines to support children with developmental challenges as well as a list of resources from our colleagues and others addressing special needs and parents. At this time we all have special needs.
Link to Profectum Foundation’s COVID-19 Resource Page
Celebrate the Children School
Bein' with you.
During this "forced pause" in our lives, we want to encourage everyone to take a few moments to enjoy the opportunity to "just be" with each other, and appreciate the unexpected gift we have been given to spend quality time with our loved ones.
A very special thank you to Celebrate the Children students, parents, and staff, along with CTC and Profectum’s greater community, for participating in this new version of the video montage featuring “Bein’ With You,” and for sharing your special relationships during this challenging time.
Three-Time Grammy Nominated Children's Music Artist, Brady Rymer, wrote "Bein' With You" on the Love Me for Who I Am album based on his experiences at Celebrate the Children school. To learn more, please visit http://www.bradyrymer.com/love-me.
Celebrate the Children School
The past two weeks introduced a huge change for all of us. We are so very grateful to our students, families, staff, and the Celebrate the Children community for their flexibility, understanding, and support as we all navigate these changes and challenges together. Despite not being together in person, our relationships with each other continue and they energize our mission.
Today we are immersed in the threats and anxiety of the coronavirus and the uncertainty of what’s to come. But we will hold each other and do what is needed to get through this as best we can. In many ways, we are facing daunting challenges and feeling the anxieties that come with these. Whether your challenge is in the form of not knowing how to keep your child with special needs engaged and stimulated at home because school is closed, or you are someone wondering how you are going to pay your mortgage when you can’t work, we at Celebrate the Children just want to validate how difficult this is for everyone.
A few days ago, there was a huge, beautiful, double-rainbow spanning our skies here in Northern New Jersey. It brought a moment of peace and serenity and made us think, is there anything positive about this situation? Families are holed up together in their homes, parents are required to be involved in their child’s online learning, moms and dads are getting creative with how to keep their kids active and engaged at home. Is it possible we might view this experience as an opportunity to slow down and re-prioritize our families and close friendships over the day-to-day rat race?
Over the next few weeks, we will provide a variety of ways for you to share your thoughts and experiences - the good and the bad - on this concept with us. Many of you have responded to our request to send pictures and videos of how you are “being together” at home for the slide show remake to the song ‘Just Being with You.’ Stay tuned for the release on an upcoming episode of Principal Randy’s Corner.
Celebrate the Children is committed to continuing to provide support to those in need and has shared a variety of resources for families caring for children and individuals with ASD and other special needs since our school’s closure. We welcome your ideas and suggestions, as we continue to provide tips and resources, try to answer questions, and focus on what we know best, supporting relationships through play, conversations, and interaction. We encourage your participation and invite you to join us on our Facebook page.
Please stay safe, healthy, and do your best to enjoy this time to “pause” and enjoy the special relationships in your life.
- Monica Osgood, Executive Director, Celebrate the Children
Let’s Create Art Studio in Denville has generously gifted our students an opportunity to experience a special, unique art technique called paint pour. Owner and Artist, Annie Felice recognized that this very trendy and popular art form was a good fit for students with sensory and development challenges, and thought of Celebrate the Children school, right down the road in Denville.
As a community-conscious business, Let’s Create Art Studio is providing this experience for absolutely no charge; supplying all the materials and staff so our students can fully participate. Let’s Create has given back to the local community by not only offering free art lessons, but by creating a wonderful Community-Based Instruction opportunity for our students.
Let’s Create Studio is a cheery, art and light-filled space, and our young artists immediately feel welcome and comfortable. Annie works one-on-one with each student artist explaining and facilitating an authentically created personal work. Students select and pour beautiful colors and then manipulate the canvas watching their colors turn into fantastic one-of-a-kind art.
Many of my students have not had the opportunity to work with other art teachers. I am delighted to have met such a knowledgeable professional in my field who cares so deeply about children of all abilities and is open to all kinds of making. I am happy and grateful to share my students with a teacher who puts theory into practice and understands the power of art by making it accessible for all. Pride and self-esteem come from real, genuine experiences, and we realized that at Let’s Create.
What’s Paint Pour?
I always tell my students that artists have to know a little bit (sometimes a lot) of chemistry to be successful. The first chemistry fact in art is that water is the universal solvent. The second chemistry fact is that oil (and wax) and water don’t mix. Artists use this fact to a great advantage. Our students exploit that rule in many, many of the works we create at CTC.
Paint pour is an example of the third art chemistry fact or term in my class ...viscosity. Viscosity is the stickiness or density of a substance. We use this to great advantage in printmaking and is the theory behind Paint Pour.
So how does Paint Pour work?
The same paint of varying colors is altered with some simple additions that change the density and or stickiness of each individual color. These colors are then layered in a cup, like a cake, or a lovely cappuccino in a glass cup. With a few tricky twists, the colors spill out onto the canvas. Instead of the colors mixing together, they repel each other… creating color “cells” that don’t mix with the other cells - similar to oil and water. So you get beautiful pure colors next to each other in psychedelic swirls. You get to move them around a bit, but the pure color pops back up instead of being a big mushy mess. Paint Pour!
How does Paint Pour benefit our students?
Paint Pour seems like an “easy A” - BUT, you have to invest in the process - make choices, control your body, follow instructions, and stay with the process to its fruition. For students with autism and special needs, this can sometimes be challenging.
This experience provides our students with opportunities to develop their hand-eye coordination, ideation, motor planning, and execution. It helps to enhance their communication, self-expression, and best of all, self-esteem.
Thanks to Let’s Create Studio, and the fact that they recognize how much our students can benefit from this technique, our kids have an opportunity to create a work of art just like the ones folks are selling on Etsy and works featured on YouTube. The whole experience is a win, win, win!
We got to leave school to go to a local business. Met a new teacher and neighbor. Learned a new way to make art. Practiced manners and social skills. And make a REALLY COOL work of art.
Thank You, Annie, for your generous thoughtful gift that allows our students to have an art adventure in our local community with a new teacher, and produce a work that will be treasured for years to come.
Mary Beth Scheerer, Art Teacher, Celebrate the Children
About Let's Create Art Studio
Their goal is to share our appreciation and love of art with all that are drawn to express and improve themselves in creating their own form of visual expression, and to give all the opportunity to explore the art world in a safe and nurturing environment.
For more information please visit https://letscreate.com/
Denville, NJ- Celebrate the Children School, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the development of children and young adults with autism and special needs, is proud to honor distinguished individuals whose contributions to the school and to the autism community warrant recognition: Elizabeth B. Torres, Ph.D., Director of the New Jersey Autism Center of Excellence; Andre Chabanel, Board President of Celebrate the Children; and Karen Austin and the Garden State H.O.G. Chapter. The awards, which recognize individuals for their passion, support, and dedication to the autism community, will be presented at Celebrate the Children’s upcoming event, Let’s Play Gala, at the Rockaway River Country Club in Denville, NJ on Saturday, March 28, 2020.
Dr. Elizabeth Torres is a Computational Neuroscientist who has been working on theoretical and empirical aspects of sensory-motor integration and human cognition since the late ’90s. She joined the Rutgers Psychology faculty, the Rutgers Center for Cognitive Science and the Center for Computational Biomedicine Imaging and Modelling of the Computer Science Department in 2008. There she initiated the path of interdisciplinary collaboration and attained tenure. Since 2009, her lab has brought Rutgers over 8 million research dollars from Federal, State, and Private funds and multiple patents in the areas of digital biomarkers with applications to personalized mobile-smart health. She has written two books on autism and biometrics and currently serves as the Principal Investigator and Director of the New Jersey Autism Center of Excellence leading major initiatives to help transform autism medical research and treatments across the state.
Andre Chabanel is a CPA by training and a partner at RSM. He has over 25 years of finance and accounting experience with public and private companies, specializing in the transportation and logistics industry sectors, and joined RSM as part of a strategic plan to grow the firm’s presence in the New Jersey market. As a truly dedicated volunteer, Andre has been one of Celebrate the Children’s Board Members for the past eight years and currently serves as the Board President. He also volunteers with the Boy Scouts of America and is the Scoutmaster of a Troop in Randolph. Andre once wanted to be a chef and loves cooking in his spare time, particularly with Les Marmitons - an international culinary society, where he serves as Vice President of the New Jersey Chapter.
Always supportive of Celebrate the Children’s students and programs, Karen Austin and the Garden State H.O.G. Chapter #3373 Members share a passion for riding and raising funds for charitable causes. The Garden State H.O.G. Chapter’s level of passion and dedication to the community is truly an inspiration, and Celebrate the Children is proud to honor them with The Simon Alexander Award.
The Simon Alexander Award was established in 2012 by one of CTC’s first students, Simon Alexander, who graduated from the program. Simon is a very generous, very thoughtful young man who is dedicated to the community, giving back, and educating others. Simon created “The Simon Fund” with the help of family and friends as a way of giving back to his Alma Mater, Celebrate the Children School. His focus is to help students as they prepare for adult life.
At our Gala, The Simon Alexander Award is given to one person or organization that shares a similar vision to make a meaningful and impactful change against societal challenges and make an immense difference in people’s lives.
The gala raises critical funds and awareness about learning differences while recognizing students’ abilities to live healthy, happy, secure, creative, and meaningful lives.
The gala is open to the public and starts at 6:30 p.m. Tickets range from $150 to $500; sponsorships range from $500 to $25,000; and a tricky tray, casino-style gambling, a live and silent auction will be held. Digital journals and congratulatory ad opportunities are also available. Tickets and sponsorship opportunities are available online now. All proceeds benefit Celebrate the Children School and will help us expand programs and improve amenities that help our students reach their fullest potential, and give them the confidence to become more successful, independent, and fulfilled in their lives.
For more information, visit www.celebratethechildren.org, www.letsplaygala.org or contact Jenna Hammond at firstname.lastname@example.org or Kristin Polster at email@example.com.
No matter how inspired your child is to learn, there will be some days when they lack motivation. It could be due to information overload, boredom, or because they just don't feel like they want to do anything.
Of course, it's normal to feel burnt out from school. But one of the biggest mistakes parents and educators make when it comes to teaching, is to limit learning to the class setting. While the classroom—traditional or alternative—can be the primary source where they learn, there are lots of things that can be taught outside of it. Help your child discover the joy of learning with these simple tips:
Go on Field Trips
While this concept is not particularly revolutionary, it's important you don’t underestimate how powerful of a tool field trips can be. An article on LiveStrong highlights that it provides children with hands-on learning, as students are able to see connections between what they read in books and the real world. It doesn't even have to be elaborate all the time; even a trip to the park, the library, or a museum can pique a child’s interest and curiosity. They'll come back to the classroom feeling refreshed and able to see their lessons in a new light.
The value of books can never be underestimated, but videos allow students to absorb lessons in a truly unique way. Statistics featured on Maryville University show how video content contributed to more than 60% of global mobile traffic back in 2016. This was mostly due to the influx of online content from major platforms, and the number has risen considerably since. In fact, a more recent survey by Pew Research Center found that 4 out of 5 parents now encourage their children to watch videos to help them understand new things. Of course, not everything online is appropriate for kids, so it's important to stick to websites like YouTube Kids, BrainPOP, and NASA Kids' Club for a more conducive learning experience.
Like we discussed in ‘The Power of Play’, playing can provide children a fun and engaging way to understand concepts. Moreover, it can also teach them soft skills such as leadership, self-confidence, and responsibility. Hofstra University Professor Doris Fromberg explains how children learn by “comparing physical experiences, [with their] interactions with other people and their own feelings” – often through their imagination. In other words, children learn better when they “experience” it, rather than being taught in theory. Get some props or toys to allow them to experience it even further.
Learning doesn’t stop with math, science, and comprehension. What about equally valuable skills like patience, compassion, and empathy? These are some lessons that are woven into many popular storybooks. Similar to the effects of roleplay, researchers from the University of Stavanger discovered how children tend to read stories from the perspective of the protagonists, which helps them understand their values better. Furthermore, constant exposure to stories can also increases their literacy proficiency.
Individual personality plays a huge role in your child’s willingness to learn, and their overall stance on schooling and education. Thus, there is no one definite motivator to learning; so find out which of these methods your child responds to the most.
Content by Ivy Royale for celebratethechildren.org
Written by: Rachael Berringer, LAC, Student and Family Support Services, Celebrate the Children
Many learning environments today do not provide our neurodiverse children with opportunities to tap into their unique strengths, but rather unintentionally create barriers and obstacles for our students to learn and flourish. We are all uniquely wired and sometimes our children need a little extra help finding their gifts and tools to chanel them appropriately. It’s important that we stop pathologizing and looking for “cures” and start celebrating neurodiversity and the unique differences that make our children who they are. Shifting the way we think about our children’s innate characteristics may help us see the whole child and start to uncover unlocked potential, or “superpowers.”
Image from: Pexels
63% of the children that go to Celebrate the Children benefit from some form of AAC to improve their access to language. Some children use supports to help language and speech, while some rely completely on AAC to share all they know and think about the world. Our mission as a department is to help improve children’s efficiency in accessing language. The more we can do this, the more we honor their individuality.
To better achieve this goal, we will strive to bridge the school-home use of AAC. We want to provide more training opportunities to help families problem solve simple ways to bring AAC into their everyday life. On May 4, 2019, the Speech-Language department at Celebrate the Children held an Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) training for our parents and caregivers, which was a great way to support families whose children use AAC throughout their day. This training highlighted making language fun. We started by collaboratively creating sentences with the child’s core page. We then played a game to come up with as many verbs to describe a situation. We ended with using comment words for a variety of images. Parents did not know where things were on the device. This forced the parent to slow down, the way their child slows down in order to navigate and motor plan the pages for their AAC system. We have to remind ourselves how quickly we talk and formulate our ideas. Errors are encouraged because it helps a child see to stick with it, and children like to see when adults make mistakes, because so much is hard for them. Modeling use of the device around simple activities honors your child’s need to use supports to be an active participant in their day and it normalizes an alternative way to express oneself.
Language is a social event. Sharing information one person to another in a pleasant way empowers people and makes people feel valued within their day-to-day interactions. This training was a social event that allowed us as a community of AAC supporters, to improve our comfort, share our child’s different language tools, normalize what we do, and share our own thoughts. It was so nice to give some practical ways to transition AAC to the home. We invite parents to ask for more training, so we as a community, can support each other in helping our children meet their maximum potential, and share all the awesomeness that makes them who they are.
The Speech-Language Therapy Team, Celebrate the Children
Here is a fun and sensory way to color eggs with your children/students for Easter/Spring. Forget messing with the store-bought kits—these eggs are the coolest. For best results, soak your eggs in vinegar for a minimum of 2 minutes so the color really clings to the egg shell. We prefer liquid food coloring to gel or powdered food coloring as it's easier to swirl in the cool whip. The best part is, this method uses all edible ingredients, so you can eat the eggs when you're done displaying them!
Prep time: 15 mins
Total time: 35 mins
Directions: Place eggs in a large bowl and cover with white vinegar. Soak for 2 minutes, drain and dry the eggs thoroughly. On a large plate or small baking sheet, spread your whipped topping in an even layer about 1/2” deep. Drop food color in single drops about an inch apart, in as many colors as you choose. Use a toothpick to swirl the colors to a marbled effect. Roll eggs in whipped cream and let sit 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from whipped cream (you may want to use latex gloves to avoid staining hands) and rinse until no whipped topping remains. Let dry completely on a paper towel and display.
Here is the link to watch a video of how to do this process. Https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/a19446386/cool-whip-easter-eggs-recipe/
Transition Department, Celebrate the Children
In the Young Adult Program, we strive to maximize student's potential and ensure that students of all abilities are equipped to meet the challenges of education, work and life. Our internships are constantly evolving and becoming more complex as students rise to the challenges that they are presented with. One of these examples is the Hospitality internship. In January of this year, the Young Adult Program opened up the Cast Iron Cafe, a gourmet brunch delivery business. I do not use the term "gourmet" lightly. Our very first dish was a Mediterranean inspired toast platter with avocado, ezekiel bread, poached egg, sundried tomato and feta served with rosemary, garlic and parmesan crusted smashed potatoes. Our most well-received preparation was a European breakfast that included dark bread, jam, fruit, gourmet cheeses, organic turkey and ham, organic hard-boiled eggs, and yogurt with homemade gluten-free cranberry granola. We want to exceed the expectations of what a school internship can produce.
The students are involved in every aspect of the business. They research recipes, write the food description used on our restaurant website, prep ingredients, cook the food, stage the plating area, artistically plate the food, deliver meals and iced coffee, collect money, and retrieve our reusable utensils and dishware (encourage sustainability!). As the students continue to familiarize themselves, and eventually master, each aspect of the business, we want to keep challenging them and demonstrate just how much potential they have. Our next goal is to involve them in designing and updating our website and companion ordering app.
The self-esteem that comes from the students presenting such professional and impressive meals is very real. Everyone, without exception, raves when they see the gorgeous meals the students present and, of course, it's the young adults who get all those kudos in real time!
Young Adult Program, Celebrate the Children
Contributions to this blog are made by Celebrate the Children's highly talented, interdisciplinary team and wonderful families.