Categories
Uncategorized

Food Allergies in the Classroom #2

Food is an obvious central social theme in our society and culture. The impact of this starts young for children as they are bombarded with the message early on that there is a food attached to almost every type of celebration. Eating is something that unites us, but for the food allergic child or individual such socialization is quite the opposite of unifying.

Know that there is more than one right approach to managing a food allergy. When my son was diagnosed with food allergies at age 3, we took the approach of helping him learn to navigate the feelings that come along with the social nature of food. In his case, we felt the best approach (for him) was to equip him to know how to keep himself safe in an age appropriate way and to learn to accept that the world may not always accommodate him. However, this is not necessarily the correct approach for every child with a food allergy. As with many things, there is a spectrum upon which food allergies may lie. So right off the bat, I want to get it out there that one right way to approach a food allergy does not exist. It depends upon the type of reactions, the trigger (airborne or ingested or both), and the maturity/ comfort level of the individual. Please don’t be that person that says,” But I know a person that has a food allergy and they can ( fill in the blank).”

For example, we cannot expect young children to necessarily make appropriate decisions for themselves at all times. We can definitely start equipping them to do so and scaffold for them. Statistically, it needs also to be said that increased incidences of food allergy related injury or death increases in the adolescent years. A combination of the child venturing out more independently, feeling invincible, and perhaps a general feeling that the child is capable of more responsibility gives us an idea of the contributing factors. It should also paint of picture of why we cannot let our guard down.

Do not underestimate the seriousness of a potential reaction. Just because someone you know “just” gets a sick tummy or “just” gets hives, know that reactions depend upon the person. Pop culture would have us believe that epi pen is a magic cure all, when in fact it just buys time to get to the hospital. Most often a second epi pen is needed within 15 minutes (therefore, they are prescribed in double packs. What? did you think it was a bulk buy?) Serious traumatic brain injuries can occur for even those who do survive a serious allergic reaction due to oxygen deprivation. Truly, it is a very serious matter that can change somebody’s life forever.

Be considerate with questions. While most are happy to oblige , I have to say that the two questions I hear most often get rather old. The first question is” Why do I think so many people/ kids have allergies these days?” Hmm… no one really knows for sure, least of all me… but if you come at me with “…but kids didn’t use to have allergies like this,” I will tell you that modern medicine is a blessing and we have only to see the amazing things that come from the young lives that are saved through the use of an epi pen and hospitalization. The reality is that many food allergic children most likely died in infancy back in the day (at least that is one theory). I don’t know about you, but I would much rather have a higher percentage of food allergic children reach adulthood, then have fewer kids with food allergies.

Next question I hear is “What do you think cause food allergies?” Jury is still out on this and just like the above question, a million different theories and no definitive answer . A lot of times, I feel people just want a little reassurance as to why it happened because they want assurance that it won’t happen to them or their loved ones. They want to know what could have been done differently or have theories as to what could have been done differently. This goes back to the decades long debate of choices parents make while raising a tiny human and everyone wants to find the “reason” that it happened. The reality is that genetics are most likely to blame for the most part. Yes, research has showed correlation to other factors, but that is not causation. Case in point, my regular birth child is the one that had food allergies, whereas my C-section child had absolutely none. Some studies point to the opposite often being the case, but again we are a mixture of our own genetic stew.

Join me tomorrow as I share a bit more about allergic living from a teacher’s and mom’s perspective.

When you teach, you touch the future and that is a pretty amazing place to be.

Categories
Uncategorized

Inclusivity for the Invisible Disability

When we think of disabilities, those that are visible on the outside are often what comes to mind. When the need is in plain view, why certain accommodations are needed is much easier to explain. But within the disability community, exists a subcategory of those who have what is known as an “invisible disability.” When the disability is not visible from the outside, the territory of making assumptions is all too often entered. For example:

  • A child with spectrum disorder or attention deficit disorder (or any other disability that affects the development of the child) displays behavior not in line with their chronological age and the Judgey Mcjudgersons of the world make sure the mom knows their disapproval, because clearly it must be the parent’s fault (it’s not).
  • A person with an invisible illness or disability that affect their mobility receives a back-handed comment from a passerby for parking in the handicap spot.

These are just two examples of the biases that are experienced by individuals with invisible disabilities and their loved ones.

Within the classroom, it is especially important to make space for children who present with developmental or medical differences due to an invisible disability. It is 100% the responsibility of the adult to make sure that the classroom is not only accessible, but is a safe place for children to learn in all ways. In some cases, depending on whether or not the disability directly affects the child’s ability to learn, they may be placed on a 504 or IEP. 504’s generally apply toward a medical disability such as a food allergy or even ADHD, if it does not affect the child’s ability to learn ( truly, there are some cases of ADHD where the issues are more behavioral and do not affect the student’s access to the curriculum, but I advise parent to really reflect on what is best for their particular child if they are diagnosed with ADHD). An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is a plan that addresses what accommodations and/ or modifications will be made for a child in order to allow them to access the learning. Both are legally binding; however, an IEP tends to be seen as more rigorous. All such diagnoses or conditions are covered by the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).

For more ideas on how to make sure your classroom is accessible for all students, contact me at deanna@deannawestedt.com. I would love to walk alongside you or your staff in ensuring that all children have access to that depth of knowledge equity I am so passionate about!

When you teach, you touch the future and that is a pretty amazing place to be!

Categories
Uncategorized

The Writing Life

I have always loved to write. I spent a lot of time as a child journaling and by the time I reached adulthood, I was the proud owner of about 20 journals! When I went into my doctoral studies, however, I found that not only was I a bit rusty and out of practice with my writing, but that as a mom of two very active boys I had to create the space for my writing.

Every person is different, but personally when I write I find it to be something that I have to immerse myself in. It is very difficult for me to tune out extraneous noise or to focus my energy when I am finding myself worrying about what is going on in the next room (#momlife). During my doctoral program, I had a couple days a week at home while the boys were at school and this became my writing time. Shortly after the completion of my doctoral program, the pandemic hit and boy, did our life change (as did everyone’s!). In fact, I have remarked many times to my husband that our life today looks nothing like it did just over a year ago. With our boys now being full-time homeschooled, there is a constant hustle and bustle around the house. Not so much the creative space needed by an introverted and easily distracted writer. Over the last few months, we have tweaked things around the house and created the space I need for writing.

If you find yourself in a program of study and encounter challenges in making space for the writing requirements, reflect upon what is hard about the process for you. Is it noise interference, constant interruptions, or beginning the writing process? By identifying your hang-ups, you can get into the solution. For example, we reconfigured the room uses in our house to accommodate our new homeschooling lifestyle. We developed signals (such as a post-it on the door) that means the occupant cannot be disturbed at the moment unless it is life or death. Additionally, using a noise canceling headset may help, as well. Don’t be afraid to try some new strategies to help address the issues. Be ready to even have to make additional tweaks. Most importantly, try your best to communicate to those you are around daily what you need from them in regards to this. Communication of these types of things is healthy in any relationship and sets an example of problem solving and respecting boundaries for our children.

When you teach you touch the future and that is a pretty amazing place to be!

Categories
Uncategorized

It Only Takes One

As a school administrator for over 20 years, my mother always noted the importance that every child needed to have at least one person in their life that deeply believes in them and champions them. And it is an unfortunate fact we know each year, that at least some of our students will come from a home where that may not be the case. While the majority of parents genuinely do their best for their offspring, there are those cases where while a home situation may not qualify as CPS worthy, yet the support and cheerleading may be missing for that child.

But the good news? While we are not able to completely replace that space in a child’s life, we can be that one person for that child. We are brought into other’s lives, sometimes for life (here’s looking at you life-long friends!), sometimes for a reason, and sometimes for a season. (Or any combination of these, too!) These children are brought into our lives, and we into theirs, and we can be that source of belief, compassion, and encouragement for that child who may not have that resource coming from home.

While the school year is a while away still, take a moment to be grateful for the children that were brought into your life (yes, even the difficult ones because they challenge us and show us where we need to grow). And then set your eyes forward and resolve that you will be that source of encouragement for that “out of the box” child.

When you teach you touch the future and that is a pretty amazing place to be!

Check out my website at deannawestedt.com for ways that I can walk alongside and find ways to be that person for those children who need us just a little bit more.

Categories
Uncategorized

One Healthy Change: Spotlight on Teacher Wellness

This week, I’ve focused on personal wellness for teachers. Teaching is a work of heart, but throughout a school year teachers often find themselves drained of their own energy. We often put personal wellness goals off to the summer. But I’m here to suggest something a little different. Instead of going gung-ho on fitness or wellness goals this summer, start small. Each action you take will lead to more. My favorite starting point, especially for myself if I get off track, is to take the single step of refocusing on hydration. Let’s face it, hydration can be easy to let slip while in the classroom. I find that starting with hydration, finding how many glasses of water I should be drinking for my particular set of circumstances, and focusing on that as a goal generally starts me off in the right direction. Your “one healthy change” may be different, but whatever it is, make sure to take time to feel great about doing something good for yourself and build habits that can go back with you into the classroom!

When you teach, you touch the future and that’s a pretty amazing place to be!

Categories
Uncategorized

Wellness Strategies for Teachers (cont.): It’s Okay to Do Nothing

Teachers are among the hardest working individuals I know. And whether we find ourselves at the local dollar store, garage sale, or Target we always have an eye out for things that *might* be useful in our classroom. Browsing TPT as a pastime? Copy that! Even when we are off, we really aren’t. The truth about teachers is that when your job is a work of heart and involves young lives you come to care about, it is hard to separate ourselves from our job. Whatever your goals are for your classroom next year, make sure to take some time this summer to disconnect from your classroom. Even if you decided to do absolutely not one stinkin’ school related thing this summer, it is okay. If your priority is to soak in your family, attend to a challenge in your life, or any other goal, give yourself permission to do so!

When you return to the classroom in the fall (well, late summer for some of us), your students will benefit even more from a rested teacher or one who’s been able to refocus attention on balance. When you teach, you touch the future, and that is a pretty amazing place to be!

For more ideas on teacher professional development, including creating balance in the teaching life, please contact me at deanna@deannawestedt.com

Categories
Uncategorized

Wellness Strategies for Teachers: The Secret Challenge of Summer

aerial shot of womann relaxing in a water bungalow - vacations stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

It’s summer, and I will speak for myself that the finish line we just crossed was probably the definition of “so close, yet still so far away” those last few weeks. Most school years, we are definitely ready for the school year to come to a close, but this school year was extra extra.

I remember during my classroom days, always waiting for the school year to come to a close to get a handle on things that may have been neglected during the bustle of the school year. And then the last day would arrive and my summer would start and all the things I had put on hold and had promised to accomplish during the impending break now seemed so overwhelming. I often would feel like I didn’t know where to start! But start I would and after a week, I would still feel just as exhausted. A few years in to my teaching career I learned a simple trick: I always gave myself a complete period of rest before I jumped in to whatever task(s) I had planned for my summer. This period of rest and what it might look like may differ from person to person depending on their individual circumstances. ( Hello, parents with children home for the summer… are we ever really off?) But in any case, just a chance to catch my breath and to enjoy a slower pace if only for a day, seemed to do wonders for my productivity.

So, the message for today is to cut yourself some slack. Give yourself permission to enjoy a slower pace or at least plan for a bit of down time. Your health and wellness are important. When you teach, you touch the future and that is a pretty amazing place to be!

Categories
Uncategorized

Self -Care for Care-givers, Parents, and Educators

Shaping young lives whether through parenting, teaching, or caring for children is a task that is both rewarding and draining. In recent years, a focus on self-care for those who care for others has arisen. When your job description includes protecting and teaching our society’s youngest members, it is natural for us to put ourselves on the back burner. There are even times where it is appropriate to do so. But self-care does not equate to selfishness. In fact, without filling our own cup, we are left with nothing to give to those who are most important to us. At times it seems like an impossible task, but here are some lens shifts to consider when it comes to taking time for yourself:

  1. We are setting the example. When we take time to care for ourselves, to nurture ourselves a bit, we are setting an example for our children to prioritize their health. Share with children why it is important
  2. We are teaching our children to have consideration for other’s needs. parenting and guiding children is all about preparing them for life. Often times as caregivers, we put even basic needs such as needing to use the restroom or get our water in for they day on hold. Expressing these needs in a think aloud way for your children will help model for them on how to be cognizant of their body’s needs. Asking children to wait for a moment for us to take care of a basic need is teaching them to be patient, thoughtful, and considerate.
  3. Taking time for oneself does not need to be expensive or time-consuming. In fact, it doesn’t have to cost a dime! My favorite thing to do is to read a devotional or watch a show on T.V. Super unfancy, but at the end of the day, that is what I need to just feel back to center. Try to list a few things for yourself that fills your cup so that you can bless others, too.

When you teach, you touch the future and that is a pretty amazing place to be!

Categories
Uncategorized

Teachers As Practitioners

Early on in my teaching program, one of the professors introduced me to the idea that teachers had the responsibility to approach the classroom through the lens of a practitioner. After all, the role a teacher has in the shaping of a student’s brain is profound. As we move through any given school year, the choices we make in our behavior management system, the way we present materials to students, and the classroom culture we create impacts each student individually and in a way that causes changes in their brain. Their neurons are firing, building connections (hopefully positive ones) and lifelong attitudes towards learning are developing. Each day a student spends in a classroom, their brain leaves at least a little different than when they first entered. That is a huge responsibility!

This is one of many reasons that I highly endorse a practitioner view of student learning. It is critical that, as practitioners, we identify strengths and areas of challenge and prescribe a set of treatment through skill-based targeted instruction. Of course, it is not purely scientific. Teaching practitioners must also understand the many different categories that make up a student’s identity and find ways to make learning accessible to each student. This is where the art and science of teaching so beautifully meld. Ongoing formative assessment both through observation and by reviewing student artifacts (assignments) should be notated in a way that works for each individual teacher. (Again, if there is not a one size fits all method for student learning, then why would there be a one size fits all teacher style?

I specialize in creating classrooms that blend this art and science. Please contact me at deanna@deannawestedt.com for a free consultation to see what ways I can assist you in creating depth of knowledge equity for all.

Categories
Uncategorized

Dealing with Developmentally Different Children: The Parent’s Perspective

A common rite of passage for many new parents is to make note of all the developmental milestones… that first smile, that first babble. The first year of life is a monumental period of development for young humans. As parents, we worry if they are doing things fast enough. With my second one, he was so behind on getting his teeth in, I was starting to think they were going to have to X-Ray him to see if there were any teeth to come in. (There were). As we meet together with other parents and watch our babies parallel play as they call it, we share and vent about the highs and lows of parenting. But for some parents, those who are raising developmentally asynchronous children, such sharing seshes can seem completing isolating. For a child with a hidden developmental disorder or learning disability, the first year or so can even seem typical. It isn’t till later developmental milestone moments come and go that the parent may suspect something is a little bit different. Finding a place to share these moments: frustration, intense love, intense worry; is difficult. There are so many things that are difficult to understand about raising an asynchronous child if you have never walked that path.

Even harder to describe are the situations a parent finds themselves in if there child is developmentally advanced. When we found out our youngest’s IQ was off the chart, particularly in the area of vocabulary (at age 7 he had the vocabulary test score of late highschool/ early college.), it explained a lot. And while that is a proud mom moment, for sure, I cannot express the amount of challenges it presents to raise a child who has the expressive ability of an 18 year old with a 7 year old filter. That’s where the asynchronous development came in. He was very advanced intellectually, but developmentally, speaking from an emotional stand point, he was right on track. Only problem is, what we all know about a 7 year old’s filter and impulse control, is that it can be nearly non-existent. LOL (Kinda). This situation created a lot of hilariously (and not so funny)difficult moments. But it was also very hard to find someone who understood the behavioral components that come along with it.

So, in short my advice is to find “your people.” I was fortunate to fall into a great group of ladies who were easy to talk to and non-judgemental. If you aren’t able to find a group where you feel comfortable, look for moms who may be experiencing the same or similar challenges and reach out to show solidarity. Raising an asynchronous child with developmental differences is exhausting, confusing, and often elicits some of the most judgmental comments. (#beenthere).

If you’re looking for a group to share in a safe space, check out a group I co-host, called MOSS (Mothers of Struggling Superheroes). We meet on Fridays at 7:30 PST. More info can be found on our Facebook page: MOSS.