Friday, December 2, 2016

Celebrating new friends, new challenges and many holidays

Hello families!

I hope that the holiday season is going well for your family. Things in the SRC are forever changing and exciting! Below is some information about the new and exciting things your child has been exploring this month:

New friends
We've had some change within our classroom in the last few weeks. We've added three new friends to our class, and one friend moved away. This has meant learning names of new friends, and processing saying goodbye to someone we'd come to know. This has also meant that our schedule has changed a few times this fall. I am so proud of how well all 13 of our students handled these changes! Nice work friends!

New challenges
As I spoke to many of you about at conferences, kindergarten and first grade are years JAM-PACKED with exciting learning! In the beginning of the year, we spend a lot of time helping the kids learn their new school routines. This means we helped them do a lot of things hand-over-hand, or with some physical assistance. Now that we've been in school a few months though, we are increasing our expectations for independence. It has been so amazing to see the challenges our little ones are rising to! We are opening doors for one another, putting on coats, zipping coats, fastening pants, writing... the list is endless! There are so many skills that our kids are completing independently--what could you work on at home? How many ways can you continue to help your child grow?

Thanksgiving Shopping and Cooking
This year we tried something completely brand new for our Thanksgiving feast--we shopped for our needed items! This was a new challenge for our group, and some great instruction on the bigger picture of this exciting holiday. On Friday, the 18th, we walked to Walmart and purchased our assigned items. Each student had a shopping list that told them the ingredients they were responsible for--this was great practice for helping with grocery shopping at home!

On Tuesday, the 22nd, we had all our necessary ingredients, recipes and supplies, and we were ready to cook! All month long, we talked about the process of cooking, and the idea that even if we don't like the foods, we can be good helpers and cook them, and let them sit on our plates. All of the kids did a WONDERFUL job with this! Most of our friends tried new foods, and all of them safely tolerated the foods on their plates! Nice job guys!

Cooking is exciting!

Many holidays and celebrations
This season brings many diverse reasons to celebrate for the many families that make up our Sexton Mountain and SRC communities. As we discussed at conferences, we talk generally about lots of holidays that kids may participate in or be exposed to. While the holiday season is filled with joy and merriment for many people, it can also be a stressful time--particularly for children, and most especially for children impacted by disabilities. Sometimes it is easy to forget that while decoration or celebration is fun and exciting, it may also be overwhelming or just too different for some kids.

In no way do I suggest NOT celebrating or NOT exposing kids to the holidays. I just like to make sure kids are prepared! This season is fun, and even if your family celebrates in non-traditional ways, these mainstream traditions are something they are potentially going to be exposed to in their community for many years to come!

So in the SRC, we try to prepare our kids for what they may see. We have social stories and activities for:
            -Bright lights on houses
            -Trees INSIDE houses
            -Different decorations
            -Different songs on the radio
            -New foods
            -Eating at the dinner table
            -New smells
            -Visiting people we don’t see very often
            -New people in our house
            -Different people that we see, like Santa Claus
            -Getting and giving presents
            -Lots of “home days” and less time at school

With direct instruction on what to expect, and how we can calmly and safely participate (or politely decline), often times we see that the holiday season tends to go much smoother for families. Over the next month, your student will participate in activities designed to help them understand the changes in the community that they will be exposed to, and cope with those changes. In no way will we be providing any religious instruction, rather, social instruction on how to navigate the holiday season. If you have any questions or concerns about the holiday season, and how we intend to handle it, please let me know. Also, if you would like input on how to further prepare your child at home, feel free to ask.

One last note about holidays… this season tends to bring out the best and the worst in all of us. Even if things are happy and peaceful, we often will feel a little more anxiety about things that need to be done, or expectations we set for ourselves. This holiday season, keep in mind that your little ones notice your stress level (even when it is good stress). Allow yourself to enjoy those fun, exciting activities, but also remember to take time for those comforting routines.