Things I Do

**Disclaimer: I am not by any means bragging in this post; I am presenting this information so that it may help other parents out there. Thank you!**

After yesterday’s post about Olivia’s rough start to the year, I started thinking about the things I do to help make her life easier and more successful while at school. Things that I, for some reason, decided a long time ago were important in helping her to “fit in” at school. So far, they seem to work. I thought I’d share.

My Mom and I decided when Olivia was first born that she needed to be impeccably and fashionably dressed. My Mom took it as her mission in life and has not disappointed. Honestly, is there anything worse than seeing someone who has special needs, and is young, dressed in old lady clothes with bad glasses and an even worse haircut? Ok, there are worse things, but for some reason that really bugs me. I remember my Mom and I having the conversation right after Olivia’s diagnosis. Basically, I said “She will always wear age-appropriate, fashionable, trendy clothes with a cute haircut. Amen.” and my Mom said “I’m on it sista!” Which is why you can find Olivia wearing outfits such as this:

And carrying an adorable lunch box like this:

It helps. I know it’s a sad commentary on the world, but cute clothes help make a girl more likable. Especially when you’re starting out at a slight disadvantage in the world.

I also go in and talk to Olivia’s class every year. I made a Power Point presentation called “Understanding Olivia” and in it I explain her syndrome in elementary terms so they can understand that it’s not something contagious or worrisome, it’s just something that happened when she was born. Then I explain some of her behaviors and why she does them. For example, Olivia will hit/pinch/bite when she is in extreme distress or extreme excitement. I explain that she isn’t being mean, she just doesn’t have the words to explain her feelings. We then talk about what to do if she does this and how they can help. I then move on to how Olivia is just like them; she has a family, dogs, things she loves, etc. It helps them see that she’s not really all that different. I ask them if they have brothers, dogs, do they like to swim, etc., too to help them see that she’s just a girl who wants to be their friend. I think it really helps the kids, Olivia and the teacher. If anyone out there would like the Power Point, just send me an email and I’d be happy to share. It only takes about 15-20 minutes of class time and makes a world of difference. Sometimes the other teachers will ask for the Power Point to share with their class as it helps them at lunch and recess when they are with the entire grade. My kids’ school is awesome.

Something else I decided was that it would be really important for me to be a constant presence at school. I wanted the kids to know me, to know that I was Olivia’s mom. I wanted them to like me and know me because then they would be more likely to want to come over and play, to come to Olivia’s parties, to be her friend. So I volunteer at school all the time. I’m active in the PTA. I go in for lunch and recess occasionally. We invite kids over to play. When I go to school, I am bombarded with hugs and hellos and smiles and I love it.

One of the most important things I think you can do (even if your child doesn’t have special needs) is to be extremely good to the teachers. I send in notes of thanks and candy treats. I find out their favorite store, restaurant, hooby and I collect money from the class at Christmas and the end of the year for awesome teacher gifts. I’m the room Mom and plan fun parties. I help in any way that I can. It makes a difference. If they know I’m grateful and thankful, they will do more. It’s true. Another thing I do is take major yummy treats to IEP meetings. Those teachers have to give up after school time to be there. I want them to know they’re appreciated. So I take some sort of delicious baked good and either coffee or pop. Just to let them know I appreciate all they do for Olivia.

Let’s face it, Olivia is totally lovable, adorable and worthy of friendship all on her own. But I wasn’t going to take the chance that she might be left out, either socially or academically, because people see her as “different”. These are just some of the things I do to help make sure that didn’t happen. I hope maybe you found an idea or two that you can use!!


22 responses to “Things I Do

  1. Starting out new in this world of Special Needs makes me absolutely appreciative of information like this. We will soon be embarking on the journey of school for Cayman. I feel like hyperventilating just thinking about it. But having a great understanding of how to be proactive in her life even in an area when mom can not always be present helps. Thanks Tiffany!

  2. I love this post. You are the best mom I know. Hands down. You should brag.
    (Also, your disclaimer reminded me of the other blog I read regularly – only two, sad I know – I do not know her, but love to read it – she is a friend of a friend, and I think you might enjoy it:
    Love, Beth FS

  3. That’s awesome that you do that! The power point presentation is such a great idea! Hope Olivia has a wonderful school year!

  4. I love all of these things, but I bet the PowerPoint presentation is so helpful for Olivia’s classmates. You are such a clever mama!

  5. I make the fashionable clothing thing a priority, too. It’s true- you are treated better when you look “nice”. (And don’t you just hate all the Dr. and therapist reports that mention, “Patient appears well-groomed” ? I would be mortified to have “somewhat disheveled” on any permanent record!) I think it must be an unconscious reaction people have, that this child looks like someone really cares about them – I’d better care, too.
    You are such a good role model for me!

  6. Tiffany,

    You are such an awesome Mommy and a wonderful, wonderful woman! How you do all of it, I’ll never know. You are an inspriation to all Mom’s out there.

  7. You rock it, Tiffany. I’m not sure why, but this post really hit home for me. You inspire me, on a regular basis, to be a better mom.

    Thank you.

  8. Great ideas! Great family!

  9. Oh man, the fashionable clothing thing is a MUST for me! Right from day 1 I’ve been very particular about Kaia’s clothes. I too hate seeing kids with DS (or other special needs) with horrible hair cuts and old fashioned clothes. It makes them look like no one cares. My DH mentioned to me once that he finds it interesting that Kaia gets so many comments on her clothes, like people are shocked that she dresses like anyone else her age. It is interesting…people assume because she has DS she doesn’t deserve nice clothes or to look nice? I don’t get it. And as for the presentation to the class, I’ve been wanting to do that, but figured Kindergarten was too young to really talk to the class about. At that age they notice the difference, but it’s not such a big deal to them. Now that she’s in grade 1 I wonder if this is the year to do it. We are a small school though so she’s had the same classmates for the last 2 years. I may hunt you down for help if I decide to do something! Oh, and you ROCK!

  10. you are amazing. in so many ways. i cannot stand the fact that so many of our special needs kids look like someone just threw clothes at them and possibly cut their hair with gardening shears. olivia is beautiful and i must say that i LOVE the little outfit at the top! and as a teacher who has sat through iep meetings on several occassions where the parent sat there and either didn’t participate at all or felt compelled to make threats/unreasonable demands/or excuses the entire time, i can say that treats would definitely lighten the mood! oh how wonderful and fabulous our schools would be if we had alot more parents like you….and not just for special needs children 🙂

  11. This is why you are such a great mom! I love the power point idea. That would be so helpful for her classmates. My son has had a boy in his class for 3 years now with some special needs. I, nor he, nor anyone else, is aware of what exactly they are or what puts this child in a certain disposition on any particular day. I’ve taken time to try to explain why so and so gets to bring a blankey/stuffed toy in to calm him at school and how no, that doesn’t mean that you can do that also and other such things. If they had this, I think it would have just led to an increased understanding on all parts. Great idea!

  12. Amen! Just be cause Riley has Down syndrome doesn’t mean he has to look it. I hate it when I see people who obviously have special needs and have crazy haircuts, teeth and clothing. Olivia is a fashion diva!

  13. Ok. You’re brilliant! I knew I loved you from afar from a reason! I LOVVVVVVVE this post. It really did help me. As other parents have mentioned here, it’s so hard to think about that time, which is inching its way into our lives. Slowly, but surely, we’ll have to make decisions about schooling. You should add to this list that you selected a public school with so-called “regular’ kids! That’s big. I hope one day I can put all of these ideas to use in my son’s regular classroom! Thanks for all of this!

  14. … and so true that people react differently when they appear so neat. I’m particular about that myself. And, isn’t that true about all people? People are just not as approachable when they look unkempt. It’s just great that you put in writing what a lot of us think on this subject. I didn’t realize the reasons behind what I was doing until now!

  15. This is so important. I think as Moms we will do anything to help our children along . You rock Tiffany and inspire.

  16. “Yummy” is a total understatement when it comes to your treats! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… YOU ARE WONDERWOMAN! Olivia is a beautiful little lady with a contagious personality and so much genuine character that you just can’t help but LOVE her! You get all the credit for that! Olivia is the woman she is because of having such an amazing mother!

  17. The clothes thing always gets me too. Children, no matter the abilities or disabilities, deserve to be recognized for their age. It truly does help them to fit in if they don’t stand out. Kuddos to you on all that you do for Olivia. You are a truly amazing mom!

  18. You are a wonderful mother. I love her outfit too.

  19. When my stepkids came to live with us the first thing I told my husband was that they were going to be dressed well. They came from squallor and I knew if we sent them to school in our district dressed with the clothes they had, they would immediately be ousted. Sure it says something about our society as a whole but in what capacity does it not matter how you are dressed – whether at work or school. I commend you and your Mom for making the commitment.

    And the fact that you have even done a PP presentation is freakin awesome. Olivia is one lucky little girl!

  20. And THAT is why God sent her to you.

  21. I am just catching up on your blog becuase I have been dealing with the change of being back to school! You do amazing things and Olivia is so lucky to have you in her life! But then again…you are pretty dog gone lucky to have her too! She is a sweet girl! Thanks for sharing and I can’t wait to see her at SV!

  22. My daughter has a while before she’ll be in school, but I would still be interested in seeing your Power Point presentation. I think that sounds like a great way to get other children to see a 5p- child as a real child who has things in common with them.

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