Grief & The Special Ed Parent

grief cycleI am not a parent. I am an advocate, a voice for those students and parents who need a little help along their special education journey. Together, we sort out the nitty-gritty of the IEP. But in the process of all the meetings and the goals, I sometimes forget about the most obvious: the grief of a special needs parent.

 

The Parent Hat

When I come to an IEP meeting, I am wearing my provider hat. The administrators are wearing their district hats. The teachers are wearing their special education and general education hats. The OTs, PTs, and SLPs are wearing their therapists hats. The student is wearing their most studious hat. The parent is wearing their ‘this-is-my-child-and-I-want-the-best-for-them’ hat.

An IEP is a legal document and sometimes those of us at the round-table who do not have the parent hat on, forget that this meeting of providers should be parent-driven. They can say ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

Somewhere over the course of our 40+ year national IEP history, these meetings became more formal and less focused on helping the parents of our kiddos navigate the educational system with ease. Yes, the law is very clear: all children are entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and so “the best” cannot be legally binding. The most appropriate is what we are all seeking but, oftentimes, we forget that what is the most appropriate for the student, brings to the surface the parents feelings of guilt, denial, and anger.

It’s Not About Us

We providers have a tall order too, and I do not mean to cheapen our wanting-the-best for our kiddos either. Those of us who are in this job because we truly care, know that our hearts are in the right place.

But it is not about us.

When it comes to working with parents who have special needs kids, we must remember that those heated moments are not directed at us, those tears are not for us, those statements of disbelief are not about us.

They may be our kiddos for 30 hours a week and 184 days a year, but they are their parents’ kids forever. It’s hard for me to have to come to that conclusion because I feel so invested in my students’ achievements and challenges. I probably went through my own version of that grief when I realized no matter how much I genuinely care for my students, they are, in fact, not my children.

Coming to the Table Together

It is the job of both the parent and the provider to come to the IEP table together with a collaborative approach. To do so effectively means that we providers must meet the parents where they are in the process of their grief. We must honor those moments and take that extra minute or that extra hour to actively listen and offer guidance, if wanted. No matter what hat we are wearing, our goals are the same: to help their child, and our kiddo, get the services and supports to succeed in the classroom and beyond.


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Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit providing wraparound academic, behavior and advocacy support services for struggling students in southern California. Learn More at TerryTutors.com

Dear Little A

Little A ShoesDear Little A,

There are some students that will forever tug at my heart-strings; you are one of them.

Before we began our journey together, I felt so much uncertainty about nearly every aspect of life: career, family, friends, relationships, even my little apartment. See, I was taught that feelings sometimes get in the way of the work, and so I didn’t quite know how to express my fear and restlessness. Instead, I stifled it. Tucked it away, hoping that it would magically disappear.

But you, you are a child who wears her emotions on her sleeve. When you are happy, you show it with a grin and a knee bump or two. When you are sad, anyone within earshot will know it. We may never speak the same language, but I know when you are sleepy, angry, hurt, excited, frustrated, or joyful. I know when you want more swing, pats, music, blocks, peek-a-boo, eat, nap, walk, run, and spin. I also know when you are all done. Well, we all know that one — you are very clear.

Little A, you showed me what it looked like to live fully in the moment. You encouraged me to set high expectations for myself and my students. You reminded me that the data sheets will get done in due time. You taught me that success is not measured by whether we met or exceeded the benchmarks but, rather, by whether my dedication yielded just a small but positive difference in the lives of my students and relationships with my colleagues.

It is thanks to you that I continue to follow my passion, learning to help students blossom and become more independent, more expressive, more communicative, and more curious, just like you.

As I close the chapter on our school day adventures, I want to let you know how honored and privileged I am to have been with you for the big moments and the little ones.

You will forever be my Little A.

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Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit providing wraparound academic, behavior and advocacy support services for struggling students in southern California. Learn More at TerryTutors.com

 

Life is like a Box of…

Pralinen

Tests.

Thought I was gonna say ‘chocolate’, huh? Well, that too. But in the world of academia, life is very much dependent on testing.

We Make Our Students Take a lot of Tests

On average, US students take 113 tests from PreK-12th Grade. Add undergrad, grad school, and professional development to that number and I can’t even begin to tell you what it would be. Maybe 312? 559?

All I know, as a person who struggles with testing, is that whatever the number might calculate out to be, is one too many for me.

Test Anxiety & The Fear of the ‘What If’

Sometimes, I’m plagued with moments of self-doubt as little naysayer voices whisper in my student loan debit-ridden ear, “How did you get this far with your anxiety over tests?” In fact, that little voice reared its ugly head again just this past week, as took my final test for my credentialing.

Ahhhh, will the anxiousness ever just go away?!

What to Do about It

When my students face the same fear, I ask them to talk about it, make a contingency plan, define what they know, set realistic study goals, and change their mindset from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I will’:

1. Talk About the Fear & The Reality of the Fear : I ask my students to tell me about the ‘what if’ scenarios: What if I get an F on this test? What if I have to retake the class? What if I fail 4th grade? We then go through each thought and discuss the reality of that possibility.

2. Make a Contingency Plan: The likelihood of the fear coming true is usually slim but just in case, we make a contingency plan: If I fail this test, I will have ask for a retake. If I fail this class, I will have to take a course in the summer.  Okay. So we can see that if the fear comes true, although it will delay our timeline, it’s not the end of world. There is another path.

3. Define What You Know: After there’s less emotion attached to each fear and a realistic contingency plan in place, I ask my students to tell me what they know about the test. See, often our fears stem from the unknown. If I can get my students (and myself!) to articulate the known factors about the test, then that gives us a clear starting point to begin working on confidence and trust in their own abilities.

4. Set Realistic Study Goals: Studying for 12 hours a day/7 days a week is not realistic. I’ve come to realize, through my own experience, that it’s really not about studying more that gets the passing score. Your brain is a muscle and it gets tired and needs to rest too. So, let’s help the muscle by giving ourselves timely brain breaks. This means mapping out a realistic time management study schedule that allows the student to do fun things, family things, and friend things as well as study.

5. Change Your Mindset: This is too hard! I can’t do this! I’ll never get it! I try to help my students realize that every time we feed these negative messages to ourselves, we are training our brain to believe it. That’s something I recently learned when I had my very first hypnotherapy session for my own test anxiety. The more we tell ourselves we’re not good enough, the more we begin to believe that it’s true. So if we continue to tell ourselves ‘we’ll never pass this test’, then we may experience a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When we change the message, we can change our mindset. You are already good enough. Period.

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Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit providing wraparound academic, behavior and advocacy support services for struggling students in southern California. Learn More at TerryTutors.com

Support Terry Tutors via Amazon Smile

amazon smileEvery time you hop online to buy books, toys, diapers, pens, ink, a blender, a Keurig, or even a dining room table — they’ve literally got everything — you can now support us!

Amazon Smile accesses the same sites, links and stores that regular Amazon does, but Amazon Smile gives back a portion of profits to your designated nonprofit. A win-win!

As a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit, Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services gets back a portion of anything you buy through Amazon Smile. Every time you click “ship”, we get a little of that sale. And a little goes a long way. No donation is too small to help us continue to help struggling students.

Here’s the link: https://smile.amazon.com/ch/81-1498909

Keep on shopping. It’s for the kids 🙂

Keep up with the latest blogs, thoughts and resources. Follow us on Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube

Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit providing wraparound academic, behavior and advocacy support services for struggling students in southern California. Learn More at TerryTutors.com

Time Management Tools

Time Management is one of those sneaky, little skills that weaves itself into every class, homework assignment, work load and even our social lives. It’s part of the Executive Functions, which are controlled by the frontal lobe and govern things like control, attention, flexible thinking, working memory, self-monitoring, planning and prioritizing,  getting started on a task, and organization. Time Management is part of the organizational, planning and prioritizing pieces. It is a critical component to student success and one of those all-around skills that we take with us in to adulthood.

A few tools to help with Time Management:

  1. “Chunking”: A terrible name for an awesome tool. Chunking is a method by where a student can set small goals within a limited timeframe. It’s a way a student can feel a sense of completion and accomplishment in a small amount of time. It’s also a great way to gauge whether the student needs a more challenging goal or a more realistic goal.
  2. Self-Assessment: Can the student articulate her strengths and challenges? This is a way to capture the student’s ‘read’ of her self-view. It will also provide insight into confidence and self-advocacy.
  3. Color-Coded Timer: I use the Amco Houseworks Digital Color Alert Timer*. It’s actually a kitchen timer but has three color-coded, “stoplight” settings that help students identify where they are in the process of meeting their timed goal. Find it on Amazon Smiles & make sure to list Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services as the nonprofit you’re supporting.
  4. Sand Timers: For Kiddos who can’t quite tell time yet (whether analog or digital) sand timers are a useful resource for little ones to learn how to gauge their own time. A sand time from a board game works just fine. If you want something bigger and more colorful, try Teacher Created Resources* on Amazon Smile & make sure to list Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services as the nonprofit you’re supporting.
  5. Cell Phone on Airplane Mode: For my older students who may find a color-coded timer ‘too babyish’, we use their cell phone timer but on airplane mode to ensure no calls/texts/distractions throughout our session.

Check out our video for more details about Time Management Tips & Tools: https://youtu.be/4mi_ZAcE68c

*Not paid for recommendations. Just helping parents and teachers find useful resources for their kiddos.

Keep up with the latest blogs, thoughts and resources. Follow us on Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube

Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit providing wraparound academic, behavior and advocacy support services for struggling students in southern California. Learn More at TerryTutors.com

 

Musings from an Education Advocate in Our New America

lord-of-the-fliesI can’t be mute on the subject. I can’t, also, stand idly by and sweep this under the rug.

I want to listen and really hear you. I genuinely do. But I’m not sure if ‘agreeing to disagree’ will cut it anymore.

I want to remain active and loving, mindful and passionate.

I want to stand up and voice my concerns, nay my outrage! But I don’t want to halt the conversation. Stay silent, be complicit? Stay silent, be respectful?

Perhaps, it’s too early, still, to remove emotion from our interaction. Perhaps, we shouldn’t.

This is a twist, a turn, in a topsy-turvy world where up is now down and down is round. And I’m spinning, just trying to keep up with it all. How do we start to make sense of these new rules?

What do I say to you?

To you — the teacher, the parent, and especially the student. You are still our future, right?

To you — the supporter, who believes he will rescue us.

To you — the non believer, who questioned him every step of the way.

To you — the holder of the “purse strings”, the upholder of the Writ to our way of life.

To you — the revolutionist, who is shaking things up for better or worse.

To you — the ‘yes man’ who is interrogated under the guise of due diligence yet affirmed in compromise.

To you — the woman who may become my boss, who may have good intentions but who falters in execution.

Maybe we are an island now. Tide in, tide out.

Maybe we are stuck. Would Dante agree?

Chin up. Move on. Stay strong. Press on.

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Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit providing wraparound academic, behavior and advocacy support services for struggling students in southern California. Learn More at TerryTutors.com

Terry Tutors Annual Report: 2016

2016-picWe’re super, duper excited to welcome in our 5th year of Serving Struggling Students with Wraparound Support! As is our custom, we like to take a quick look back at the previous year to see where we’ve been so we can better know where we’re going.

To recap: 2016 was a year of continued learning and big changes for us here at Terry Tutors.

We’ve Got a Brand New Name

Terry Tutors became Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services, Inc. But don’t worry, our online presence has stayed the same. Check us out at TerryTutors.com.

We’re Now a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization

That’s right! We’re a federally recognized 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit organization. What does that mean for you? Well, by changing our tax status, we’re able to serve more students through our sliding scale, grants, and donations.

Feeling led to help us serve more struggling students? Donate today! All donations are tax-deductible and you’ll earn an A+ in our book.

We’ve Got an Amazing Board of Directors

Yep, it’s true. We’ve got five lovely ladies who have dedicated their professional lives to Speech & Language Pathology, Special Education Advocacy & Law, Marketing & Finance, Occupational Therapy and Teaching & Administration. Our Board knows the value of good, honest oversight with the end of goal of financial and student sustainability.

Take a moment to meet our Board.

We’ve  Got an Awesome New Video

No, seriously. It’s totally awesome! Wraparound support can be a little tricky to explain with its multiple pieces, but we think this short marketing video does a pretty good job breaking it down. Check it out on YouTube (or below) and share it with all of your friends and family.

We’re On Our Way to Getting More Training & Education

Finally, we’re proud to announce that our Founder, Christine M. Terry, J.D., has been accepted into Teach for America –  2017 Corps, Los Angeles. She is excited to continue her journey in special education support and earn her Masters of Arts in Special Education with a Mild/Moderate Education Specialist Teaching Credential.

“When I was first tutoring, I started to notice that my students’ poor grades were often a symptom of something else: a learning difference, behavior need, or family dynamic concern. I knew there needed to be a go-between person to talk to the teachers, other support providers and the parents, to be an advocate for the kid who was really struggling in school. I couldn’t find any other service that helped parents, therapists and schools work together for the benefit of the student. Thus, Terry Tutors was born. Five years later, we are going strong. I’m so excited to get this chance to add even more experience as a credentialed special ed teacher to our nonprofit, so that we can continue to serve more and more students with our unique and comprehensive approach to student care.” ~ Christine M. Terry, J.D., Founder & Executive Director of Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services, Inc.

Cheers to 2017! It’s gonna be a fantastic year.

Keep up with the latest and greatest blogs, thoughts and resources. Follow us on Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube

Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit with a  focus on providing wraparound academic, behavior and advocacy support services for struggling students in southern California. Learn More at TerryTutors.com

This Holiday Season Take a Note from the “Mensch on the Bench”

mensch-wisdomEvery year it seems that from Halloween till New Years the days just fly by, I feel like I’m a teeny, tiny hamster spinning a gigantic wheel ’round and ’round with no end in sight. I suspect you may feel this way too.

With all the stressors this fall, including the travelling, present-buying, annual family get-togethers and even the post-election turmoil (I’m still in shock!), I thought this gentle reminder from our good friend, The Mensch on the Bench, was in proper form.

A mensch is a Yiddish word meaning ‘a person of integrity and honor’ – a person who does good by and for others. It’s an aspirational word and a standard I am striving to attain both personally and professionally as an example to my students, their parents, and my colleagues. I even hope to be a mensch to the person who honked at me this morning as I was getting on the 101 or the lady who jumped in line at Starbucks. Hey! No one said living life as a mensch was gonna be easy. I’m definitely still learning.

This holiday season, whether you’ve got an Elf on the Shelf or a Mensch on the Bench remember to take a moment, laugh, breathe, and be grateful for your family, your friends, your country,  your apartment, your house, your car, your metro card, the dollars in your pocket and even your chocolate stash.

And perhaps channel your inner mensch and do a good deed for others in this season of thanks, giving and gratitude.

Happy Holidays, from this joyful mensch to you and your joyous loved ones.

Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Executive Director of Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services.

She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic Support, Behavior Management, Special Education Advocacy and School Placement services. Christine truly loves helping struggling students realize their inner potential and the possibilities that await them in and out of the classroom.

Give Back on Giving Tuesday: 11.29.16

giveThe ghoulish spirits of Halloween have all gone back into hiding and we now welcome in the season of thanks and giving. It is my favorite time of year.

I love Thanksgiving and sweet potatoes and green beans and stuffing and pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes and Trader Joe’s turkey-less stuffed roast with gravy and, well, now I’m hungry. 🙂

Giving Back on the National Day of Giving – November 29, 2016

It is also a time to give back to our family, our friends, our community. After Thanksgiving comes Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and then Giving Tuesday — a national day of giving, where we come together as a unified nation and give to our charity of choice in the spirit of the true meaning of the holiday season.

We Became a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit

This year Terry Tutors became Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services, Inc. — a bona fide 501(c)(3) nonprofit. We are legit! And we are so excited to be able to serve more students in our community by receiving grants, instituting a sliding scale and taking tax-free donations.

Your tax-deductible donation goes to helping struggling students in need using our Wraparound Academic, Behavior and Special Education Advocacy support services. Our Mission is Collaboration for the Next Generation and your donation makes you part of the team. High Fives all around!  Donate here

Watch, Share, Give

With the help of a few friends, we’ve also created this awesome new video that shares more about what we do and how we are helping students and families get back on track in school and at home. Watch, Share & Give Back on Giving Tuesday.

Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Executive Director of Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services.

She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic Support, Behavior Management, Special Education Advocacy and School Placement services. Christine truly loves helping struggling students realize their inner potential and the possibilities that await them in and out of the classroom.

I Didn’t Get Picked for the Team

jury-dutyWill I Be Chosen?

I recently had jury duty. Yes, I hear you groaning, thinking of your own civic duty fate that will, too, find its way to your mailbox one day.

It’s not like anyone really wants jury duty; I get that. I thought I’d immediately be excused due to the fact that I have a law degree and no attorney wants a person who also went to law school sitting with 11 other members of the panel possibly influencing their argument.

So I was surprised when after nearly a week of jury selection I was still in the running. As the Plaintiff’s counsel questioned each of the prospective jurors, I noticed that she used words such as “chosen” and “selected”. Defense Counsel used the same positive connotations to describe our potential service.

Each day I’d walk into the jury assembly room and greet the other prospective jurors. I got to know some of them by name and we chatted while we waited. During questioning, we got to know a lot about each other too. Our answers about our personal and professional lives were a nice foundation to start a conversation during breaks or when the judge was in chambers with the lawyers.

By Day 3, I was on the way to accepting my fate and starting to plan ahead for the two-week trial,”Okay. Yes, jury service is disruptive to my schedule and I have to rearrange student sessions and meetings with schools, but I could do this for a few weeks. I might even enjoy having a break, and I’d get a whole new perspective on our court system from the inside of the jury box.”

Just as I was starting to look forward to it, I got cut.

I Didn’t Get Picked for the Team

After being “Thanked and Excused” from jury service, it surprised me that I felt disappointed instead of relieved.

I started to think about the time I was in 4th Grade and we were on the school yard picking teams for dodge ball. I was picked last. I know! I’m still surprised that I wasn’t chosen. It’s times like these that I still think about that disappointment.

The Link Between Poor Grades & Feeling Left Out

Oftentimes, my students feel alone in their struggles at school. Most of the time their failing grades go hand-in-hand with social struggles too. After my students and I have worked together for a few weeks, they will often confide in me about their daily difficulties to fit in, to find their group, to be “selected”. It’s not uncommon for us to talk about how hard it is to find someone to eat lunch with, work on a group project with several other classmates, raise your hand in class for fear your question will be “dumb”, or navigate the world of the popular kids.

Not doing well academically is often a sign that something else is wrong. Doing poorly in school actually may not be about your child’s ability to understand the material.

Save for a learning difference or diagnosed learning disability, there are a whole host of other reasons your child has trouble in a subject or with school overall: Maybe the lesson is too advanced or not advanced enough; maybe it’s a time management issue because there are too many activities and other obligations; maybe she’s being bullied, maybe he just wants to fit in so badly that he’s willing to follow his friends even if they are “jumping off a bridge”.

Dealing with Disappointment

The point being: fitting in is a big deal. It’s part of the school experience and as such, it’s a big part of your child’s life. Sometimes we don’t get picked for the team. That’s a part of life, too, and we must learn to navigate through that disappointment.

Feel our feelings, as they say.

But no matter how old you get and no matter in what context the situation arises, the disappointment of not being chosen will stay with you, even as an adult who didn’t get picked for jury duty.

It’s the way we teach our children to handle life’s disappointments that make a difference in how they perceive life’s difficult moments. Let’s teach them to honor that feeling and then pick themselves up and find a healthy way forward.

As for me, I bounced back from the disappointment of not being picked for jury duty about 20 minutes later. But I’m sure I’ll get another chance to be selected in the future.

Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Executive Director of Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services.

She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic Support, Behavior Management, Special Education Advocacy and School Placement services. Christine truly loves helping struggling students realize their inner potential and the possibilities that await them in and out of the classroom.