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The Importance of the “Mommy Meltdown” Basket to Self Regulation

Posted on: June 22nd, 2015

When you start at a 9 it doesn’t take much to get to a 10. — Rose Montie, special education teacher

We defined self regulation and dysregulation in my last post.  I want to talk about coregulation today.  Psychologist Alan Fogel describes coregulation as the “continuous unfolding of individual action that is susceptible to being continuously modified by the continuously changing actions of the partner.”  “Don’t rile up your brothers and sister!” was heard more than a few times in my childhood home.  Teachers observe this dynamic in their classrooms every day and develop management strategies to minimize its distraction from learning.

However, can we take a moment now to consider that in our hurried, pressured lives perhaps we don’t always recognize that our adult behavior has an equal or maybe greater effect on our children’s behavior than either that of their siblings or peers?  If so, shouldn’t we spend some time becoming aware of our own dysregulation triggers; developing coping strategies; and, thus improving our ability to self regulate?  I think so!

Read More…

Self Regulation Defined

Posted on: June 19th, 2015 No Comments

Recently, a local Director of Special Education asked me to speak to his Friends of Different Learners group about self regulation.  “Sure,” I responded while quietly feeling a little intimidated.  What new and effective strategies could I possibly  share with parents and teachers who were already experts about the differently-abled children in their lives?

My initial approach to any challenge is to learn the lingo. So, off to the internet I went.  My findings boiled down to the following:

  • Self regulation is the neurological ability to evaluate sensory input; identify your emotional feelings about it; and, choose an appropriate behavioral response within the context of your current environment.

It’s All In Your Head!

Most of us do this instantaneously without consciously thinking about the process.  However, if I am someone on the autism spectrum, for example, my brain’s physical structure may not allow me to successfully receive sensory data nor to properly process it.  My limbic system, the brain’s emotion processing pathway, may cause me to respond to my feelings with atypical behaviors.  I stress this because it is important to separate the person from the behavior.  Not everyone can do back bends!

  • Dysregulation refers to an emotional response that is deemed out of proportion to the sensory stimuli.  You may also know it as a “meltdown”.  The affected person’s brain is so overwhelmed by incoming sensory information that their observable reaction may include an angry verbal outburst or a physical reactions such as destroying or throwing objects or aggression toward themselves or others.

That’s enough for this post.  Tomorrow?  The Mommy Meltdown Basket!

Healing Complex Kids Presents…

Posted on: January 28th, 2015

One Teacher, One Student, 100% of the Time

Posted on: August 22nd, 2014 No Comments


Mable Sinnett Fox, M.Ed

Serendipity brought me to Mable Sinnett Fox, the Outreach Director for Brightmont Academy’s Northville Campus.   We both attended a local resource fair for “different learners” and happened to sit next to each other.  In the initial exchange of “getting to know you” questions and answers it quickly became clear to me that she and Brightmont Academy were something special.  I wanted to know more.  Within a week, Mable and I sat down at the Northville Campus for a deeper conversation and a tour.

Brightmont Academy offers an innovative and highly successful learning experience for students.  Their “One Teacher, One Student – All of the Time” philosophy is the foundation upon which the school stands and the key reason why they excel at educating students who struggle in traditional schools.

“Welcoming” best describes the school’s atmosphere.  It is bright, warm, and noisily quiet with the murmur of students actively engaged in learning – and enjoying it!  The classrooms attractively reflect the subjects studied therein and each has a state-of-the art computer.  Accommodation can easily be made for a student’s particular learning style and/or for attention or sensory processing challenges.  The hallways showcase student accomplishments.  The student lounge facilitates peer socialization when students are not in class and an eat-in kitchen gives students the opportunity to cook and eat together.

The one-student- to- one-teacher relationship strongly promotes individualized, focused learning in a safe environment.  Brightmont Academy’s experienced, highly accomplished teachers are skilled at identifying student interests and building their academic strength and confidence.  Let me introduce you to one of them.

Keith Schafer, PhD


Keith Schafer, PhD teaches literature and Latin at Brother Rice High School for part of the school day and then shares his time and talents with his Brightmont students.  Dr. Schafer, along with the other teachers at Brightmont Academy, acknowledges the value of “mentoring the whole child” by getting to know his students and recognizing their talents.  He pinpoints his student’s strengths and preferred learning style and adjusts his instructional approach and pace to capitalize on them.  More importantly, as his students achieve progress, they gain the self-confidence to support lifelong learning and success.

Brightmont Academy offers three learning paths to potential students.  Please click each link for more information.

1)      Full time student for 6th through 12th grades

2)      Individual courses to earn credit or credit recovery for graduation

3)      Tutoring including standardized test preparation

The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia

The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia

Thanks to Mable Sinnett Fox’s vision and efforts, I can excitedly share that Brightmont Academy now provides learning opportunities to educators, too!  Brightmont Academy recently earned the distinction of becoming a Michigan Department of Education approved provider of State Continuing Education Clock Hours for educators.  On May 17, 2014, students, teachers, and families affected by dyslexia gathered at Schoolcraft College for a wildly successful education day.  Here is what one participant had to say:

“I found the seminar yesterday valuable.  As I mentioned, until my son presented with dyslexia, I never made the connection that I had this challenge myself.  I’ve never been diagnosed as such, but knowing of the symptoms and, more evident, my son has this challenge I’m pretty sure this is also my challenge.

Remembering all of the learning experiences I had growing up, it brought tears to my eyes to now understand what I was going through.  I just learned to cope and work around this and ultimately did okay.  I still need to work with my son so the learning continues.  Thanks for inviting me to come.”

– David R.

I expect great things from Brightmont Academy as it continues to expand its “sweet spot” and the number of people that it serves.  I’ll be watching.  I hope that you will, too.

New Toronto Restaurant Staffed with Deaf Waiters

Posted on: August 5th, 2014

This is a tremendous step for the differently-abled!

Brightmont Academy Presents…

Posted on: April 28th, 2014

Please join us for a screening of “The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia” and a series of workshops by local dyslexia specialists!

Register here by May 6, 2014.

Making It Through The Rough Times

Posted on: March 18th, 2014 No Comments

Please welcome Lateefah Wielenga, PhD!  Dr. Wielenga, founder of The Counseling Kitchen, is a life, couples and business coach based in Long Beach, California.  Today, she writes about maintaining a strong “couplehood” in the face of family challenges.  Thank you, Dr. Wielenga!



Right now you may be experiencing one of the most difficult challenges of your life.  You thought everything was perfect, until you were presented with something you thought you were not prepared to handle.  You didn’t expect this.  Not this.  You never thought in your wildest dreams that your child would be born with a developmental disability.  I can imagine some of the thoughts that have possibly crossed your mind; the pain you and your spouse or significant other have endured; the questions and the uncertainties you are experiencing.  Although you have been forced to face a huge obstacle in your life – your relationship – if you shift the way you perceive the current circumstance, you can turn the obstacle into an adventure.  Think of this time in your life as a different kind of adventure.  Always ask yourself what it is you are supposed to be learning.  Be curious and eager to learn and know you are growing in this area of our life.  Be open to all of the possibilities and always communicate honestly with your spouse.  There are many things you cannot control in your life, but you can control your thoughts, your actions and how you treat yourself and others.  Looking at it this way is less threatening and keeps you in control of your personal power.  During any unusual experience you face, you never know what lies ahead.  Treat this adventure as you would any other.  Let this be the experience you and your partner choose to encounter together, as a cohesive unit.

When beginning this journey it is very important to first see your child’s disability as an external entity, something that lives outside of you and your family.  Viewing it this way will help you to remain focused on the necessary things that need to be dealt with, keeping you away from the three fears that are waiting to wreak havoc.  The three fears are disguised as Blame, Frustration and Anger.  There is no one to blame for a child having a disability.  When dealing with the unfamiliar, there is no place for frustration because we expect the unexpected.  And anger has no place in your lives at a time like this, as all of your energy is required to deal with the needs of your child and perhaps other family members.  Now is the time when you do not want to be divided because you are stronger for your child as a unit.  At times like these, it’s almost impossible not to tap into your spirituality, and when you do, you will probably begin to see this as a gift.

There will be times when you feel sad and get down on yourself.  When that happens, an effective way to shift your mood is to write a list of things you appreciate.  Favorably starting with what’s right in front of you, your spouse or significant other.  You are not in this alone and your partner is available to help you.  They know the sadness as well.  With the three fears out of the way, you and your partner can put your heads together and begin to deal with what is front of you.  The child with the disability is still your child and needs you just the same.  Your husband or your wife needs you now more than ever.  You both are experiencing a very challenging time.  Now is the time to be there for each other.  It is imperative that you make time for just the two of you at least one day a week.  You need quality time together as a couple.  A doctor’s appointment is not quality time.  Going to the Regional Center is not spending quality time together.  You are the same people you were before you were forced to take this adventure.  Now is a great time to communicate and cultivate that deep connection you’ve always had.


  • Going to a movie together
  • Having dinner out
  • Taking a nice long walk together
  • Remember what it is about your partner that you love and like.
  • Be thankful you are in this thing together
  • Watch the words you use when talking to and about your partner.
  • Try not to take things personally because “it” is never about you.
  • Don’t assume anything, always ask for clarification.
  • Do the best that you can each day.

Cultivating a stronger bond with your partner creates a better environment for your child to thrive.

Six tips to a successful relationship:

  • Listen to your partner
  • Give them the benefit of the doubt
  • Do not blame or judge
  • Surprise them when they least expect it
  • Be kind
  • Communicate-Communicate-Communicate

Lateefah Wielenga, PhD
The Counseling Kitchen
(562) 895-0516

Friendship Circle’s Great Bike Giveaway Is On!

Posted on: March 12th, 2014
Great Bike Giveaway

The Friendship Circle invites you to enter their Great Bike Giveaway!

The contest is already underway and will end at 11:59 AM on March 25, 2014.  The drawing will be held and the winner announced on March 26th!

Each bike page has a space where users can enter the contest. Submit a picture of your child with special needs along with a short explanation of why your child needs an adaptive bike.

There are two ways to win:

1) Most Nominations - One bike in each contest will be given away to the entry with the most nominations. Nominations are received from friends and family clicking the “nominate button” on your post.  You must have a minimum of 50 nominations to qualify.

2) Random Drawing - All the remaining bikes will be placed in a drawing. To be eligible for the drawing each submission must be nominated by at least 50 friends and family members.

Spread the Word!  By asking people for nominations, participants will draw more visitors to the Great Bike Giveaway Contest and increase the amount of donations. This in-turn will add more bikes to the raffles and give more children with special needs a chance to win a special bike.

Click here to enter!

Click here for full contest rules!

Down Syndrome Guild of Southeast Michigan Cordially Invites You…

Posted on: March 12th, 2014

Win a Peanut Ball!

Posted on: January 20th, 2014

Enter the Friendship Circle of Michigan’s contest to win a peanut ball from Warner’s Corner Toys!  Click Here to Enter!

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