Parent Toolkit Nights: Expanding Our Toolkit

By Renee and Russell Schoenbeck; Parents of TLC toddler Riley, age 2

Riley enjoys painting contact paper with watercolors for a fun sensory activity in her toddler classroom.

Riley enjoys painting contact paper with watercolors for a fun sensory activity in her toddler classroom.

We love TLC. Let’s just throw that right out there. We love the mission. We love the philosophy. We love that we KNOW our daughter’s life is being enriched by her time spent at TLC. So, when opportunities at TLC present themselves, like Parent Toolkit Nights, we are eager to participate. 

Let us explain: Parent Toolkit Nights occur 4-6 times per academic year and are available to parents of students at TLC (prospective parents: this is a wonderful benefit). The Toolkit nights are 60 minutes and are lead by a teacher and a therapist who discuss helpful strategies that are taught in school, then offer ways to incorporate those strategies at home. 

Yes, really. The experts in early childhood education are not only willing to teach your child all day long, but they are also willing to teach YOU how to work with your kid (while providing you with snacks, laughs, and childcare). We feel like we could end this right here and invite you to join us, but let’s press on. 

Riley and her parents enjoyed the toddler costume party together last October.

Riley and her parents enjoyed the toddler costume party together last October.

Toolkit nights are spent reviewing things like visual schedules, calm down strategies, problem-solving strategies and more, in a way that bridges the gap from school to home, and helps us help our kids with life-long strategies. The strategies help us communicate with our children better, and, heck, even our significant others (because suddenly people become a lot less annoying when they say “Geeze, my engine is running so slowly!”)

The teachers and therapists put a lot of time into these nights, and not only do they have a giveaway (we won timers at the last Toolkit night!), but they always have some kind of project or handout that you can make and take home to begin introducing the strategies at home immediately. This past ToolKit night, we received starter Calm Down Kits, complete with a squishy, chew, and lavender-infused weighted pad.  Not to mention, the evening is filled with other parents who are just as grateful for the information as you are. 

At the last Toolkit night, Miss Jen talked about how the trickle-down effect works with our children within the community. If our kids can learn to self-regulate, self-soothe, communicate effectively, and make good choices, then when they interact with other kids, they model that behavior, and it spreads. How can we set our kids up to be part of this wonderful trickle-down effect? By learning. By being involved. By bridging the gap. By extending the lessons that our children are learning at school, to our home.

We are raising the future, and TLC is setting us up to succeed. I can’t tell you how many times the words “If we had access to these skills when our kids were younger…” have been uttered. We are lucky to have access to this information, and we are lucky to have teachers and therapists willing to dedicate the time to teach us.

We hope you’ll join us for the next Toolkit night on Thursday, April 26, 2018, for some snacks, laughs, and learning. 

P.S. Don’t forget, there is free childcare! 
 

The Listening Program

By Lindsey Blechle, TLC Occupational Therapist 

Sound is all around us. We are constantly processing auditory input from our environment. As I type this I can hear cars driving down my street, a train in the distance, the wind coming in my window, my computer humming, birds chirping, and an occasional alert on my phone. It’s a lot to take in as I try to focus on this one task. 

The act of hearing is passive; it is simply the ability to sense sound. The act of listening is active; it is the ability to take in and filter out sound. Auditory processing is dynamic; it is how the brain organizes what it hears. Children with sensory processing challenges often struggle with all three forms of auditory input. The act of hearing may be overwhelming when the sensory system perceives sounds as being too loud. The act of listening to directions in a classroom may be challenging when classmates are talking, pens are clicking or the hallway is noisy. For children that are struggling with the act of hearing and listening, processing auditory information correctly at a higher level adds a whole new challenge. I became a certified provider of The Listening Program because of the positive effect I saw the program make in pediatric patients with auditory sensitivities. 

The Listening Program by Advanced Brain Technologies (ABT) is a therapeutic music program focused on improving sound brain fitness. The music is performed by ABT’s own award-winning Arcangelos Chamber Ensemble. The music then undergoes neuroacoustic modifications to provide the sound contrast needed to train and improve sound perception.  These modifications improve discrimination, reduce sensitivities and direct attention. 

The Listening Program modification techniques work with the brain’s plasticity to improve overall function and shows benefits in the following areas:

Perception                        Attention                              Memory
Motor coordination         Language                            Listening
Auditory processing       Spatial awareness             Flexibility
Problem solving               Decision making               Self-regulation
Sensory processing        Sequencing                         Inhibition
Social engagement        Creativity                             Brain health 

 

The Listening Program includes many therapeutic programs to target specific areas of intervention:

  • Level One – balanced training adaptable for all listeners that focuses on all frequency zones (full spectrum, sensory integration, speech and language and high spectrum). This is the best program for children with sound sensitivities and the most recommended for TLC Learning Center’s pediatric population.

  • Sleep – sound neuroscience for a restful night’s sleep

  • Sound Health – Music of Learning, Music for Concentration, Music to Relax, etc.

  • This music can be played over speakers and throughout all environments

  • Music for Babies – Sleepy Baby, Peaceful Baby, Playful Baby and Cheerful Baby

  • Spectrum – foundational training with a focus in the sensory integration frequency zone, for the extreme sensory sensitive listener.

  • Achieve – intermediate to experienced training with a focus in the speech and language frequency zone.

The Listening Program is now available at TLC Learning Center as another therapeutic tool for our pediatric clients. 

Music is a therapy. It is a communication far more powerful than words, far more immediate, far more efficient.
— Yehudi Menuhin

For more information visit The Listening Program, or contact TLC for information on occupational therapy and The Listening Program. 

Teaching Versus Testing

By Kirsten Asbury, TLC Teaching Assistant

Often times as teachers we find ourselves asking questions that we already know the answer to, or that a student already knows the answer to. When we ask questions like “What letter is this?” or “How many sides does a triangle have?” or “What day comes after Monday?” we are not actually teaching our students, we are testing them. It is appropriate to ask testing questions when we are actually trying to determine what the child knows. It is important to facilitate the child’s learning by actually teaching them strategies to be successful when they are being tested. 
 
Constantly being tested can affect a child’s desire to participate in learning opportunities. For example, if you ask a child the name of a certain letter and they get it wrong and you correct them, they have failed. If this pattern continues they may develop coping skills so they will not have to participate in these “testing” activities. They could continue to give the wrong answer even when they know the answer to make peers laugh, they may shut down and stop responding, or they may act out in different ways to avoid these activities all together. 

TLC preschool students enjoy interacting with their teacher after reading a story together

TLC preschool students enjoy interacting with their teacher after reading a story together

What can we do as teachers to avoid testing students and teaching them instead? The answer seems so simple, just stop asking “testing questions.” It takes a very conscious effort to make sure we are not just testing our students. In the book Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome by Patricia Logan Oelwein there are numerous different strategies and games to help teach children different reading skills. Playing games with your children or students is one of the most effective ways to help teach them. It is important to start at the simplest level of any game to make sure the child feels successful. If an activity or game is too hard for the student, stop, and choose something more appropriate to ensure that the child feels that they accomplished something on their own. Some games that Oelwein suggests to help children reach success in learning are “family bingo,” “letter basketball,” and “letter hunts” around your house or school. 
 
It is okay for learning to be hard for a child; when it is hard for a child to learn, acknowledge that it is hard! When the child experience success when something is hard that will increase their self-esteem even more! I encourage parents and teachers to really think about what questions they are asking children and avoid just testing them. I know this is something I need to work on, and it takes a very conscious effort but is well worth the rewards experienced by the child who learns and learns to love the process of learning.