Egypt

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When I reminisce about my trip, I get this strong urge to be.  Each day used as an opportunity to wake and travel to different sides of the earth just trying to survive and standing in local markets, bartering goods for laughter.  I saw so many smiling faces…beautiful people who were simple and praying. Men who prayed so fervently that they had carpet burns on their head, women who were strong and delicate, and little girls who had nothing and tugged my shirt for an Egyptian Pound. I saw people who looked like me, rich hues of melanin …faces that looked like my father and his father’s father. Boys who carelessly frolicked in the African heat, spilling their joys of laughter and hue into an ancestral river. I couldn’t help but stick my hand in the Nile…if I could have jumped in…I would have drowned…I felt home. I hoped to be reborn.

Egyptian women who declared themselves African made my heart leap. They knew who they were, then they asked me who I was…I had no clue or answer for them. Nubian men welcomed me home in song… I felt then that this was were I belonged.

Most days when I am afraid and scorn…I have to remember that I carry countless moments. Moments that have surpassed any life that I thought I could have ever lived.

I have saw God work miracles, a laying of hands on my life.

“Patriotism is not Limited by Race”

The week before Thanksgiving break, one of my 10th grade students (who happens to be Honduran) stopped by my classroom during my lunch break for a visit. We all have those students that love to check in and seek our ear and encouragement. She started talking and it dawned on me that she had been missing a lot of days and was behind in a few of her other classes. I began “preaching” to her about her absences and maintaining her grades and doing assignments on time, eventually I asked her what she wanted to be once she was done with high school and she began to tear up… she was two when her pregnant mother and her fled to the United States illegally. Her brother was legal and her mother could remain in the states until he was 18, but her, her future was put on hold due to the ending of DACA/Dream Act. She began to pour out to me that she felt lost. She was 17 and her dreams of getting her license, driving, and joining the military felt so far away. She had begun the application process for citizenship but the end of DACA and the DREAM Act presented nothing but closed doors and applications ripped up in front of her face. Going back to Honduras meant death due to gang violence and human trafficking. She sobbed. She was stuck and feelings of fear and defeat were beginning to creep in.

I sank behind my desk. I had never known; the children sitting in my classroom had battles and burdens that I had never imagined as they smiled at me during lessons and discussions. Some of those very students came to the states without their mother and/or father, feel lost, face language barriers, are scared, have been traumatized, are poor, abused, and displaced. How could I not have known? I had no answers for her … I had always been so sure … and at that moment I wasn’t and as a woman of color in America I felt like a scared child… uncertain of my own security.

I had to do something. I had to educate myself. Her story and the story of other Dreamers needed to be heard….was she no more American than I? She and I sat at a figurative table that once wasn’t allowed only 30 to 40 years ago. My forefathers had fought and died so her and I could experience equality… who would I be to shrink and play small because I now had a small seat at the table.

If we a allow a wall today and these Dreamers to be deferred…what will we allow tomorrow?

1. What is DACA?

DACA is the executive order by President Barack Obama that covers approximately 800,000 children and young adults who were brought to the United States illegally. It does not affect all 11 million unauthorized immigrants currently in the United States.

2. What is the Dream Act?

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (Dream Act) is a bill that Senators Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, and Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, first introduced in 2001. The Dream Act would apply to children brought to the United States illegally—often called Dreamers because of this bill—and would create a path for permanent residency and eventually legal citizenship.

3. Support organizations that provide scholarships, legal resources and mental health care to Dreamers. TheDream.US

4. Advocate for and mentor undocumented youth.

5. Donate to & attend United We Dream events. They advocate for Dreamers by providing legal counsel and mental health resources.

6. Open your heart, prayers, and resources to Dreamers.

Raising A Child With Special Needs

If you are a parent of a child with special needs, there may be days where you feel all alone in a battle. Perhaps taking care of your child’s needs has become overpowering, in addition to the rest of your family, that you have not taken the break to pursue reassurance from those who trudge along the same roads as you. No matter if you’re raising a child with emotional challenges, or various physical inabilities, we hope you’ll find comfort in today’s post.  Deanna “Squeaky” Miller ; wife, singer, and mom, is living the joys and trials of raising a brilliant child that happens to have special needs.

 

Tell us a little about yourself and your family. When did you first learn that your child/children had a disability and what was your reaction?

Greetings I am Deanna Miller, affectionately known as Squeaky (all about the speaking voice lol). I am an independent artist, singer, songwriter, and performer. I was born and raised in Tallahassee by a wonderful-loving family, who nurtured me into a woman of faith, serving my community with love through music, which is where the singing part comes in. I am married to a beautiful man, Henry for 13 years, and we have three gifted children, Kharizma 20, Julius 11, and Joe’l 10.

Julius is our oldest son and lives with the challenges of Autism. He was diagnosed by the Leon county schools at the age of 5. It was difficult! A year went by before I was able to wrap my mind around the word “autistic”. We didn’t understand how he got this, or how to cure him of it. I remember crying for days, blaming my body, as if I knew exactly how he became this way! We had no clue or real blame! A long road was ahead, we were terrified of not knowing how to help Julius.

In raising a child with special needs, how often do you make time for you? How do you do this? Do you have a support team?

Often….Pouring myself into my music provides a place of peace. I sing a lot around the city, and sharing my voice is me-time. My husband and other two kids are very supportive and will give me a break when I say I need it. They have great relationships with Julius, so it makes it easier for me to get away for a few hours.

Being an at-home mom is hard work and can be very tedious…. I pace myself! If it’s not a priority? I do not worry about it. Julius is in public school, so I get some down time then, and he receives in-home therapy several days per week. I have a great support circle of family and friends, too!

Do you practice therapy at home? What are some activities that you/your family do?

Yes, as I stated in my prior response, Julius receives in-home therapy several days per week. I do remain consistent with some of the exercises daily to help him communicate better, and transition from one activity to the next without difficulties. Music, books, drawings, movies, and games are our main ways of engaging with Julius. He is a cartoonist, with gifted drawing skills and loves to act out animated characters, so you can imagine the level of voice over talent in this family lol.

Therapy is the key point to managing autistic behavior, communication, and socializing. Find what they like and use it to connect with them. The challenges are still there but you learn how to handle them successfully.

What do you do about unexpected behaviors or tantrums? Do you worry that your other children may feel you are unfair to them? 

Unfortunately, the disability to communicate every emotion is the most frustrating challenge for an autistic person. Even those whom are verbal may have this challenge. Most will use tantrums to express sadness, anger, and even a disagreement with something or someone. Depending on the situation, Julius will scream and/or speak rude phrases, sometimes attempt to self-inflict harm to his body, with hitting, to express his anger, sadness, or disapproval. BUT because I am well aware of his body language and triggers, I can intervene. Starting with a calm voice, I acknowledge his feeling. This lets him know he’s not being ignored! Then I use deep breathing, while hugging him tight, to calm him. Sensory massages are very effective to help the body relax. While hugging, we discuss the problem. I will ask him to repeat what I say, giving him verbal understanding that what he wants can or cannot happen with explanation. It’s very important to use words that specify time (ex: before, after, first, then) Now, there are times when this does not work, and I have to let him get those feelings out, supervising his physical behavior to make sure he’s not hurting himself, or anyone else.

Our other two children are not on the spectrum, so creating a balance of affection and attention, equally is priority in our home. The way we tackle that task is to do a lot of family time. Group hugs, kisses, discussions, and prayer are some of the things we do. They are very involved with Julius therapy sessions, too! Joe’l plays well with Julius and Kharizma having a background as a CNA helps care for him when we are not around. It’s important to give personal time to them, too! No matter what it is, playing a game of their choice or singing a song with them? We make sure they receive equal amount of attention and love.

One of the biggest hopes for families is that their child will be able to function within society. What are steps that you take to prepare your child for adulthood and independence? (Some parents practice Community Based Instruction)

I’m going to be extra candid with this question lol! A few weeks ago, my daughter and youngest son asked this question, “Who will be responsible for Julius when you and Daddy are no longer able to care for him?” Now, at face-value I told them that they don’t have to worry about that because I’m living to see 90 lol, but I must admit that I have a silent fear of that possibility. I mean, you must trust family and close-friends to stand in your place and continue the life services you’ve provided for your special needs love one, with the unselfishness that comes with it!

Julius is independent to a certain degree. He has hygiene, dressing himself, and self-feeding mastered! But as for the more complicated things, that we know he’s not able to do, the lessons CBI can’t teach him because he’s not comprehending, is what I worry about most! I’ve been researching group homes and other alternatives to have in place for him if and when that time comes.

But at the age of 11 (soon to be 12 next week) Julius has surpassed the goals that have been set for him, so I continue to be hopeful that independence for him is not limited. He’s a very intelligent young man.

What are some heartbreaking choices you’ve had to make as a parent and making sure your child receives the proper support and care?

I will have to say school choice, and not medicating our son. You want to make sure your child isn’t just placed in a daycare setting, where no one is educating him. It was priority for Julius to learn in an environment that can teach him, and unfortunately the school that diagnosed him weren’t equipped to teach him long term. We had to decide to transfer him to a different school. Because we are involved parents, our demands for Julius to get the best care and education was heard. He is presently in a CBI (Community Based Instruction) program, in middle school where the concerns are higher, because he’s among teenagers. I don’t believe any parent can trust the school system 100% to treat their special needs child the way they do. But I thank God for the educators who look out for our son and treats him well. He is liked by his peers and amazes them with his gift of drawing. We have experienced some mishaps, but they were without casualties to Julius. He is a straight A student.

I knew I couldn’t learn my son’s needs if he was on behavioral medication. It was necessary to witness Julius in his organic manner and determine what services will be sufficient. He has never been medicated for his autistic behavior, and to this day we continue to use therapy, and holistic methods of medicine like essential oils and certain foods.

How do you celebrate the small victories?

A “high-five” followed by a song of choice is the norm around here hahaha! Julius loves the simple things, so sometimes we will treat him to the Dollar Store, or he will receive extra television time. We celebrate a lot!!! Every milestone is a big deal!

What are two important things that parents need to hear when they have children with special needs?

  1. I will quote what has been said to me….” God gave Julius the right parents.”
  2. “Julius is an intelligent boy!”

Those two things gave me hope in knowing Julius will be just fine

deanna Photo credit: Deanna “Squeaky” Miller

I hope that you found tips and tools in the areas of schooling, balancing the needs of your disabled child and the needs of your other children, coping when your circumstances have become too hard, and encouragement in developing friendships

Autism Facts:

-Autism is known as a “spectrum” disorder because there is wide variation in the type and severity of symptoms people experience.

-Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior. Although autism can be diagnosed at any age, it is said to be a “developmental disorder” because symptoms generally appear in the first two years of life.

-A person with Autism has:

  • Difficulty with communication and interaction with other people
  • Restricted interests and repetitive behaviors
  • Symptoms that hurt the person’s ability to function properly in school, work, and other areas of life
-While scientists don’t know the exact causes of ASD, research suggests that genes can act together with influences from the environment to affect development in ways that lead to ASD. Although scientists are still trying to understand why some people develop ASD and others don’t, some risk factors include:
  • Having a sibling with ASD
  • Having older parents
  • Having certain genetic conditions—people with conditions such as Down syndrome, fragile X syndrome, and Rett syndrome are more likely than others to have ASD
  • Very low birth weight
-ASD is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.

-ASD is about 4 to 5 times more common among boys than among girls

– Autism is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the U.S.

Resource:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-asd/index.shtml

Beating the “Summer Slide”

As many of you know, I am a teacher and many people expect that I would have my children enrolled in the very best camps but that is just NOT the case.  We wake at 4:30am to commute to work by 6:45am every morning.  Much of the school year is spent rushing and being too exhausted.  My goal is always to make the most out of summer and allow my 3rd grader to explore and learn simultaneously.

Statistically, during the summer children lose almost half of what they learned during the summer.  Many teachers spend the first two months of school reintroducing students to what they covered last year and reviewing organizational skills.

 

 

  • Read

 

Get your kids hands on anything that they can read.  Reading with your kids help them achieve in all subject areas, provides intellectual escape, and increases background knowledge.  From Pre-K to adult-hood, reading is important.  Let your kiddies pick books that are one grade level ahead of their Lexile/fluency and if that is too hard, move downward until they make progress.

 

Education.com (Great for Math in all grades)

Newsela.com

 

  • Experiments/Examinations/DIY

 

From nature walks to cooking in the kitchen.  Allow your children to investigate and form predictions.  Creating observation charts or a presentation/drawing of what they found or cooked is a great idea.

 

http://science.dadeschools.net/elem/documents/profDev/leadersSession-5-Feb-2013/Vocabulary_PP%20for%20Science%20Leaders/Science%20Graphic%20Organizers.pdf

 

  • Virtual Fieldtrips/Museums and cultural studies

Use the internet to help your kiddos explore the world right from home.  You can also get out of the house and visit your local museums and historical sites.  Search Google to find local historical landmarks and museums to help you.

http://www.discoveryeducation.com/Events/virtual-field-trips/explore/

 

  • Assessment Preparation

 

This is extremely important for High school students.  ACT/SAT preparation is extremely important for students who have yet to pass the FSA and/or plan to go to college.   11th graders should begin to prepare for the ACT/SAT by visiting their website.  Introducing students early to this test will strengthen their chances of passing and increase their confidence.

 

http://www.act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act/test-preparation.html

Collegeboard.org

https://www.khanacademy.org/sat

 

 

 

  • Writing Activities

 

Encourage kiddos of all ages to practice writing and learning to form complete sentences that restate the question/topic within their answers.

 

ReadWriteThink

http://www.readwritethink.org/search/?grade=8-12&resource_type=70

Here is a clip of a summer portfolio that I did for my daughter who is entering the 3rd grade next year.  I printed all the material from the links that were included in the post and I also visited my local Dollar General Store.

If you have any questions on resources or materials send me an email or leave a comment.

 

-Ciao!

Host A Guest Blog: Do You Illicitly Admire Your Partner?

As I read “What Do You Secretly Admire About Your Partner?” by Psychologytoday.com, I decided to be deliberate about figuring out what I liked about my companion, I grasped that his weaknesses and strengths were all one and I would have to learn to identify and communicate exactly what I felt and work on a balance.

Recently our focus has been on a “us marriage” instead of a “you and me marriage”, identifying how our family histories inform our present behaviors, and how to navigate conflict well.  As I thought and prayed, I received a message….my spouse’s strengths and weaknesses are uniquely designed for me.

My spouse worked well under pressure, if something didn’t work he was looking to solve the problem, he’s compassionate, and can make others feel comfortable.

When I thought about his weaknesses, I completely shut down.  I knew that there was no way that I could negotiate or train away them. Dealing with flaws and strengths was a personal journey that he and I would have to make individually and then come together on one accord.  As humans, we are sure to stumble and fall, there is no such thing as a perfect person…would I be willing to take the good with the bad…could I learn to?  Marriage is inherently difficult, and we could not resent it but receive the difficulties.  Was there something in my spouse that was willing to go through the difficulties with me?

 

When the honey moon phase is over in a relationship, we in fact come to terms with who we really are and often, we find out who our spouse is.  Our strengths and weaknesses are often one and the same.  The very things that our partner fell in love with are some of the very same things that in turn could bother them.  For example, your partner may be prone to pessimism (no one likes a negative person) and always expects things to fall apart but he always has a Plan B to fix things (a positive).

In our relationships, the very things that drive us insane about our romantic partner are often associated with underlying strengths that the person has.  –psychologytoday.com

 

 

In examining myself and the different stress responses, my reaction to stressful situations or conflict is fight mode.  In fight mode, my initial reaction is fear and not love.  When overwhelmed with excessive stress, life becomes a series of short-term emergencies. I lose the ability to relax and enjoy the moment.  A “burnout” is inevitable.  My spouse on the other hand is freeze mode and flight mode.  In these moments, we find each other to be so frustrating but the positive to this is that – fighters are confrontational, but in other circumstances I am often assertive and a strong decision maker.  My spouse might tend to retreat, but in other circumstances he is very accommodating, flexible, patient, and a very strategic problem solver. 

After being in unhealthy relationships, for the first time I realized I didn’t have to fight any more.  In watching him, I saw that being confrontational was something that I didn’t have to be.  His patience with others was something that I had always admired.

My family challenges my want for control and often pushes me to shift my perspective to focus on what’s most important.  The small things can often build into mounds if not pruned but understanding that people and situations are not perfect; I see how God can use weaknesses to create something positive in others…in me.

-that was FREEING.

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

downloadphoto credit: Google

I had often heard of the horrific times of slavery; after all, I went to an historically black university.  The intricate details of over 300 years and the mystery of emotions that one might feel if they were to be trapped inbetween two different spaces of time; to be entrapped in a world where you were thought to be no more than three-fourths of a human.  It was not until I began to read “Kindred” by Butler, that I saw the many layers of America’s racial history.  Butler’s sci-fi work is amazing and bursting with so much detail that you smell the deep south as you read.  Butler’s work is one to be remembered as one of my favorite novels.  This work reaches your soul and captures your attention for hours.  In the book, Dana is a black woman in 1970’s USA and is mysteriously and suddenly transported back to the exact plantation where her ancestors were enslaved. As her time-travel trips get longer (spanning many days at a time), she experiences first-hand the pain and burden of slavery. The urgency of Butler’s writing makes the physical terror of her situation palpable; the book grabbed my attention immediately and never let go.

I’d recommend this book to all ages! A magical whirlwind of the many strands that have helped to weave so many American families.

When to say “when” in breastfeeding.

The word “wean” means a passage from one relationship to another –

not a loss or detachment from a relationship.

As a first time mom, nine years ago, I vowed to make sure that my infants would breastfeed. As a young African American mother, I realized there was a lack of support in our communities for breastfeeding. I wanted to normalize the idea and nutritional values of breastfeeding and create support for those who had chosen that option. Not only is breastfeeding cost efficient but The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that for ideal nutrition, your baby should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months, and that nursing should continue after the introduction of solids for at least 12 months and longer if mother and baby wish.

In reality, breastfeeding can be tiresome. Working 10 hour days with three girls clinging to you is enough to drive anyone insane– not to mention the constant need to pump and carrying the god-awful pump around. I had become “antsy” to begin the weaning process.  I began to ask myself questions about why I wanted to breastfeed and started to set personal limits for myself.  Was I wanting to wean solely because I felt that it would make mothering easier?  I needed to make sure that I allowed Corrine the time to be a baby; me stopping breastfeeding would not make her grow up any faster or demand any less of my attention.

I set one personal limit:

Corrine would not use breastfeeding for comfort and reassurance but for nourishment.  I would provide comfort and reassurance in talks, affirmations, support, affections, and attention.

Breastfeeding is not the same experience for everyone.  In some births you will experience an infant that latches on perfectly and breastfeeding is a breeze and in some births you may not.  In my biggest finding, women should allow their intuition to guide them in weaning their children.

So my breastfeeding mommas , remember why you started this nourishment for your babies, set personal limits so that you are happy in breastfeeding, provide comfort and reassurance to your babies, and most importantly, remember that this is YOUR journey, follow your heart.