What’s going on with my kid?!

Photo from www.defyingthespectrum.com

Photo from www.defyingthespectrum.com

When young children struggle in school, many parents experience a great deal of anxiety. This is perfectly normal and understandable. Beyond the obvious reasons for concern, one of the underlying sources of anxiety is the often-ambiguous nature of the difficulties children display. Parents struggle to “figure out” what is happening for their children. This causes anxiety because, as we all know, children are complex little creatures who are not always aware of or able to effectively articulate what is happening for them.

Unfortunately the overwhelming volume of “diagnostic” information that can be gathered with a quick Google search often exacerbates this anxiety. Parents (and I am perfectly guilty of this) often start reading online and the information available is vast, hard to comprehend, and often inconclusive. People and professionals have many opinions, there is an increasingly complex world of jargon and terminology, and, as we noted earlier, kids (and adults) are complicated beings.

Over the years I have worked with and counseled hundreds of families whose children struggle at times during their elementary years. These challenges span the developmental continuum and include reading, writing, math, organization skills, social skills, motor skills, communication skills, etc.  In most situations these struggles are perfectly normal and with a little support they pass. These experiences ultimately serve as great learning opportunities for students (and parents). The situations in which we experienced the greatest success were those that began with communication between the home and school as opposed to the home and Google.

When a parent has a concern about their child/children, my first piece of advice is to take a deep breath and remember that there is a high probability that this difficulty is normal and will resolve itself with time or a little extra support from home and school. My second piece of advice is to get in touch with the classroom teacher immediately. Teachers are trained diagnosticians who understand development and learning and, most importantly, know the child. They are great sources of information and guidance and in most instances can support parents in developing plans to coach their children through tough spots.

Teachers also know the limits of their knowledge and expertise. Fortunately when they reach that boundary they have a team of professionals and specialists that they can access for guidance, diagnostic support, and advice. At Ben-Hem, we call these professionals and specialists the Child Study Team (CST). This is an amazing resource for families that, unfortunately, many do not know about.

The CST is a comprehensive team of professionals who operate as a support network for students, teachers, and families. The team includes building administrators, classroom teachers, special education teachers, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, school psychologists, reading specialists, and behavioral analysts. The primary role of the CST is to look diagnostically at the difficulties students display, develop a clear picture of what is causing the student to struggle, and to craft recommendations and accommodations that will support the teacher and family in coaching the child through the tough spot.

If your child is experiencing any kind of difficulty in school, please do not hesitate to get in touch with your child’s teacher. If you are interested in finding out more about child study, please feel free to get in touch with me at 508.647.6580 or by email at ikelly@natickps.org.


Natick Special Olympics!

imagesThe planning for the sixth annual Special Olympics Natick School Day Games is underway and our event will be held on June 10, 2014 at Natick High School during the school day.  This event has grown tremendously since it first began in Natick; in 2009, thirty-five students participated and in 2013, 275 students participated in this track and field event along with 150 high school and adult volunteers.

Special Olympics Natick School Day Games is a rewarding experience for athletes, their non-disabled peers who are called Unified Partners, coaches, volunteers, community members, and family members.  Unified Partners train and compete as a team with their peers who have disabilities in the spirit of inclusion and community.  Everybody benefits from this event; athletes who have disabilities come away from the event with a sense of pride and accomplishment, and Unified Partners come away with an increase in awareness, appreciation, and in many cases, new friendships.  One spectator who watched her grandson participate as a partner last year sent an email that said “this event was life-changing for all of us”.  An athlete told an organizer that “it’s so nice to have others watch us for a change; usually it’s us who are cheering others on.”  One parent emailed that “this was the best field trip I have ever witnessed and all students should have an opportunity to witness a Special Olympics event”.

Massachusetts Special Olympics Natick School Day Games includes all of the pageantry of a Special Olympics event:  Opening Ceremonies includes music, participation by our police and firefighters, a torch run, and Parade of Athletes.  Each athlete and Unified Partner participates in up to three events, and EVERYONE receives gold, silver, and/or bronze medals.  As our Games have expanded, so have our costs and we need to raise funds so that we can sustain this wonderful community event.

Please participate in our “Dollar Drive” on Wednesday November 20, 2013.  Students and staff are encouraged to wear clothing from their favorite sports team, Natick colors, and/or their Special Olympics t-shirts and bring a dollar into school.  Every dollar counts and when we all support Special Olympics, everybody wins!!!!

by Barbara Singer, Ben-Hem School Nurse

617 Bobcats!

That’s right. As of yesterday we have  617 Bobcats at Ben-Hem. Every day, hundreds of excited, energized learners pour in and out of our doors. The excitement, curiosity, and innocent humor of 617 Bobcats are the reason that I get up and come to Ben-Hem with a smile on my face. They are an amazing bunch of kids and their education is my first priority. When I think about their learning, safety and security is my first consideration.

Maze025x025Length05SpectrumNarrowPathThere are thousands of details, processes, procedures, and policies that go into creating a safe and secure environment that is conducive to learning at the high levels we expect. While it is neither prudent or feasible to elaborate on every detail, I want to share a few thoughts about dismissal time. As a parent I know that ushering 2 or 3 kids out the door can be a challenge. As a principal, the logistical complexities of getting 617 children out of the building safely and on the proper route home are daunting.

Over the years we have developed and refined a system that makes sure our students know where they are going and get there safely every day. While there is a great deal that goes on inside of the building to ensure this outcome, parents and families play an important role as well. The first and most important part that Ben-Hem families play is providing us with dismissal plans for their children. This is critical as the accurate information you provide allows us to build the many different dismissal routines that we have in place.

Parents and families play an important role in the dismissal process. Making sure we know the dismissal plans of children, coming to school on time, being at the bust stop to name a few. The place where families most often complicate the dismissal process is when dismissal plans are changed. There are two basic types of dismissal change, advanced notice and last minute. The difficulty and problems come with last minute dismissal changes. When families call the office after 2:15, we consider this a last minute dismissal change. The problem this creates is one of student safety.

blue-bird-school-bus-02When 2:15 hits, teachers are busy getting kids packed up and ready to go home. The office is busy fielding phone calls, directing visitors, and managing central operations. All other staff are moving to their positions for the dismissal. The bottom line is that after 2:15 the school is a machine in motion, all systems are preparing to move 617 Bobcats from their classrooms to their homes safely and without error. When we receive a call after 2:15 to change an existing dismissal plan, the energy it takes to execute that request draws attention and energy from our primary objective. Once change poses minimal safety issues, the real problem is that we often receive over 20 calls requesting changes in dismissal after 2:15. This creates a major safety issue that places undue stress on faculty, staff, and students.

Often when I discuss this matter with families they remind me that it is just one change. While I completely understand the rationale, I also remind families that many, many families think the exact same thing and, therefore, the requests for last minute changes of dismissal pile up fast. I certainly understand that life happens. Kids get sick, cars break down, and plans don’t always work out the way we expected. The world is not a black and white place, it’s full of gray and gray complicates the best laid plans and intentions. I am not asking you to make superhuman efforts to avoid last minute changes of dismissal. I am merely asking that you consider alternatives before making the request at the last minute.

Advanced Notice (Prior to 2:15 on the day of change)

  • Notify your child’s teacher in writing of the change of dismissal. Be specific. To whom is your child to be dismissed and on what days/dates. 

Last Minute (After 2:15 on the day of change)

  • If it is unavoidable, contact the main office directly and provide specific details.
  • The office will take your information and develop a dismissal plan that ensures the safety of your child.
  • If you are sending another adult to pick up your child, please let them know that they will need to provide photo identification to the office.