The Westview School Blog
Learning about Finley's Autism diagnosis at age three was overwhelming. I cried because I was scared and didn't know what it meant for Finley or our family. His whole life flashed before my eyes. Would he be ok? Would he be happy? Could he enjoy himself and his family and friends?
Finley was our first child. As I reflect on the time of his diagnosis and the years following, our world quickly became intense and stressful. Our singular focus was to get Finley everything we thought he would need to develop. The right school, the right therapists, the right activities.
When Finley was 6 or 7, I noticed that he communicated better with me (and his mom and younger brother) than he did with others. I realized that he was comfortable making eye contact with us, but not others. It became clear that the comfort of the family bond was helping him communicate better with us.
It was a lightbulb moment. I realized how important my relationship with Finley was to his development. With me, he had a "head start" and was more expressive. He gave more within our family unit than he could give to the world around him. Our relationship blossomed, and it was reciprocal. I was finally open to receive from Finley what all parents experience - the joy of seeing the world through their child's eyes. And, as our connection grew, I could clearly see how meaningful our relationship was for him. Being present and meeting him where he was socially and emotionally was me showing up for Finley in the best possible way. It was my job to give him the opportunity to have experiences and make memories when he was most comfortable and able to be himself. And this is when Finley is at his best. This is when Finley can take it all in. As a dad, watching this happen... well, it can be thrilling.
And, while I can still get anxious when I think of Finley's future, spending time with him now is something that gives me comfort and joy. And I am not near as anxious as I used to be, because I know he is well on his way to being the best person he can be.
Finley says that the weekend is "when I don't have to go to school, and you don't have to go to work." It feels great when someone else is excited to spend time with you on the weekend. So, I'm really looking forward to this weekend and spending time with Finley. We may go golfing on Saturday with his brother and grandpa. On the golf course, Finley likes to drive the cart, and I like to be his passenger.
Temperatures are dipping below 90◦F and the smell of pumpkin spice is in the air. Fall has arrived in Houston! As we move into another season of 2020, we have learned to be flexible, anticipate the unexpected, and go with the flow. That said, there are several reasonable ways in which we can consistently support our families’ and communities’ health.
Tried and true methods to stay healthy:
-Wearing a mask, washing hands, and social distancing, as Covid-19 is still a concern.
-Exercising regularly and encouraging physical fitness for the whole family.
-Keeping up to date with doctors’ appointments (including check-ups), dentist visits, therapy sessions, and flu shots. As we move into flu season and as we are seeing another uptick in Covid-19 cases, our communities must try to keep the hospitals from getting overwhelmed again. This means we all need to keep from getting Covid-19 and the flu (there’s a flu shot for that!).
-Staying home if you aren’t feeling well, and getting tested for Covid-19 if you are showing any possible symptoms. This epidemiologist tried out the free test at Minute Maid Park- Lot C and was impressed. It was an oral swab, rather than nasal swab, and the PCR results were in my email within 46 hours.
New and novel ways to support good health:
-Supporting your family’s mental health through mindfulness. Stress has been a constant factor, especially lately, and mindfulness methods can be helpful in providing relief.
-Maintaining relationships with your social circles, even while maintaining physical distance. As a community, we have really gotten creative in the many ways we can stay in touch. Weekly Zoom get togethers, drive-by birthday parties, sending cards in the mail, and taking classes online together are some fun ways to keep up with loved ones. Consider creating a social bubble with another family whose Covid-19 exposure level is similar to yours; commit to only spending social time with each other and maintain strict social distancing with all others.
-Creating new traditions for holidays and special times. Halloween is a great time to “boo” your friends by dropping off treat baskets on their doors. Thanksgiving could be a multi-state event with families sitting together online to eat dinner at the same time and even playing games like bingo together! Cookie exchanges can easily become online events, and you can even include long-distance friends!
-Reaching out to give and receive support. One of the silver linings of the pandemic has been watching people standing up to support one another. Whether saying a kind word, smiling eyes behind a mask, or showing gratitude for the “helpers,” we have shown the strength and resilience of the human spirit.
As we move into the end of the year, look back and see how far we have come in 2020. Our children are thriving and doing well in so many unexpected areas, and our communities continue to stand together through thick and thin. Hang in there and enjoy the cooler temperatures- we’ll see you outside!
Wishing you strength and good health,
The Westview COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee
Finally! The longest Spring-Summer Break EVER is coming to an end and it’s time to send the kids back to school! Over the last few months, we have all worked together as a community to control COVID-19 and keep our families safe. We have perfected social distancing, found the cutest masks, tried out Zoom play dates, and held drive-by celebrations. But there is one more challenge lurking ahead- Labor Day weekend!
Yes, the traditional end to summer poses a big challenge this year! While we would all love (LOVE!) to return to pre-Pandemic Life fun for Labor Day, we also need to remember that our children are returning to their classrooms the day after the holiday weekend. We are focusing on the upcoming long weekend specifically because we have seen that Memorial Day weekend and Independence Day have brought big increases in COVID-19 infections about two weeks after each holiday. We attribute those spikes in cases to less social distancing during the summer holidays, including spending time with extended family and friends.
Let’s avoid a huge COVID-19 outbreak right after Westview opens. Having school close only a few days or weeks after it finally opens is not in our children’s best educational interest. The best way to avoid a COVID-19 school outbreak is to stick to the three precautions that have consistently demonstrated effectiveness in reducing infection transmission:
- Wear your mask
- Wash your hands frequently
- Maintain Social Distancing
“Social distancing,” or rather physical distancing, is one of the best tools we have in public health during a novel pandemic as we wait for physicians and scientists to develop effective treatments and preventions. In the case of a very infectious respiratory disease like COVID-19, wearing masks and staying away from others not in your household are the best ways to stay healthy.
Close contact with others (within 6 feet or 2 meters) is one of the primary ways that COVID-19 is spread between people. Transmission occurs when an infected person talks, sneezes, or coughs, and droplets from the infected person’s mouth and nose enter the mouth or nose of people who are nearby. Worse yet, people who aren’t showing symptoms can also unknowingly spread COVID-19 others. The safest approach is to assume everyone you meet is a COVID-19 carrier, keep your distance, wear a mask, and wash your hands often.
While we have found that some people are greater risk for severe disease effects than others, EVERYONE is at risk for COVID-19. No one is immune.
The COVID-19 task force at Westview has spent countless hours trying to examine every possible way to keep everyone on campus safe and healthy. The re-opening plan has been refined numerous times as more information about COVID-19 and other resources become available. However, the re-opening plan also depends on our entire community working together as a team.
What does this mean for our return to school? We all know that our Westview Wildcats thrive on campus. It’s a remarkable place and they need to be there on campus with their friends, teachers, and supporters. But if we want school to open and stay open, we all need to do our part.
So this Labor Day weekend, please continue social distancing. We aren’t saying to stop celebrating! Rather, find a new, Pandemic-Safe way to have fun with your household. A picnic in the backyard, Zoom drinks with friends, a movie marathon at home, camping out in the living room, and indulgent dessert takeout are some fun, social distancing-safe ways to enjoy the long weekend and look forward to a healthy return to school on Tuesday (and on Wednesday, on Thursday, … and the following weeks!). Hang in there Westview community, we’ve got this!
Wishing you good health,
The Westview COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee
These activities are recommended to promote family bonding in a fun and creative way!
Materials: Coloring materials, paper, scissors, and glue
Each family member traces their hand.
Each family member adds a design to their hand.
Glue the hands together on a piece of paper.
Send the Family Hands artwork to a close friend/family member or hang it somewhere special in your house.
Smile at a Poster
Materials: Poster board or large paper, drawing materials
Using creativity to make others feel good.
Together, you and your child can draw a poster for people to view who are passing by your house. Think about what you both could draw to make others happy. Talk about what makes you both happy. Find the right spot (behind a window or on the front door) to hang your art work for others to see.
Materials: Paper, drawing materials
Have your child think about a favorite place, a place they find comforting or peaceful. It can be real or imaginary. And then ask them to create any part of it they want on the paper.
You can ask them what it is about the place they like so much. You can explain to them that any time they want they can close their eyes and imagine themselves there. You can help them practice this by having them find a comfortable place to sit or lie down and close their eyes. Ask them to imagine they are in their favorite place and ask them to notice things like: what does the temperature feel like? Do they hear anything? Do they smell anything? What colors do they see?
This bingo board provides different family activities that are fun and important for any age! Click here for a Printable Bingo Board!
Bubbles may appear like simple play, but when used with intention they can address a range of developmental skills such as attending, reaching, initiating, requesting, joint attention, and exclamatory vocalizations/words.
To promote social skills such as eye contact and joint attention, simply catch a bubble on the wand and bring the wand up to your eye level. This naturally lifts the child’s gaze up to your eyes and provides a simple reinforcement for the behavior. To increase interaction between you and your child during play, give the child a reason to look at you by moving in a silly way, using a variety of facial expressions, making funny sound effects, and using an animated tone of voice.
Children must understand the meaning of a word before they are able to verbally say the word. It is important to teach your child the meaning behind new words through verbal repetition and modeling. Traditionally, when playing with bubbles two words come to mind: “bubble” and “pop”. While these are key words to use when playing with bubbles, we can take this opportunity to incorporate a variety of action words, attributes, spatial concepts, and body parts/nouns throughout this simple play-based task.
Some examples of words to include:
Action words: clap, stomp, chop, kick, pat, smack, blow, pop, dance through the bubbles, run through the bubbles...
Spatial concepts: Bubble is… right here, over there, under the table, on top of the table...
Attributes: big/small, blow fast/slow...
Body parts: Bubble popped on… my foot, head, arm, toe, nose...
Nouns: Bubble popped on…Thomas the Train, table, floor, chair, dog, cat...
Before verbally imitating words, a child must be able to imitate actions. Using the aforementioned action words, encourage your child to copy the various gross motor movements. Don’t be afraid to be silly together! Karate-chop bubbles, Spiderman air punch bubbles, etc. Try your best to incorporate your child’s sensory needs and interests to maximize their attention span during play.
As your child begins to master these prerequisite skills, encourage them to make requests (i.e., more, open, blow, go, all done, etc.) throughout the task. As always, when teaching a new skill, model the desired request behavior (e.g., intended picture exchange communication (PECS), sign, or verbalization), implement expectant waiting (5-10 second pause), and provide gestures or verbal cues as necessary for assistance.
Be sure to consult with your child’s Speech-Language Pathologist for more ideas to promote language understanding and use within the home environment.