Sunday, September 22, 2013

When All The Stars Line Up

I recently attended an elegant fundraiser for Autism Speaks in Little Falls, NJ.  This wonderful event was hosted by NJ Housewife, Jacqueline Laurita, and her two nieces.

I donated a gift certificate for $650 worth of Speech Therapy from my private practice, Superb Therapy, LLC.

As the winning ticket for my gift certificate was called I stood in the middle of the back of the huge room and visually scanned back and forth to see who raised their hand or stood up to claim the prize.  

A woman who was sitting directly in front of me, only 3 feet away, won the gift certificate.  What were the chances of that happening, in a room filled with tables?

I gave the winner my business card and informational flier and we spoke for a few minutes and exchanged phone numbers. 

Today I met her son, and I think we are a good match.  He is 3 1/2, has less than 10 words, does not speak upon request nor does he imitate speech spontaneously or consistently.  

He does do some independent vocal play, which shows me that he is ready to begin to speak more functionally.

My first goal is to get him to repeat everything I say.  

He likes music, pizza and cookies, so I made up a pizza and cookies song for him.  I audio taped it with my phone and we played it over and over many times.  

He gave me a few approving looks, a few smiles, and his eyes lit up a several times...then his mother and I both heard him imitate the word "cookie" once.

It was a great first session!  I can't wait until next week!  I have a great feeling about this little boy.  I'm ready to take him up a few levels in speech and get him communicating with his older brother in fun ways!

I'm Noelle Michaels, Speech and Learning Specialist, serving children and families in the Northern NJ area.  I love it when I meet children who I can connect with and teach to communicate at higher levels.  It happens all the time, and I'm happy to say that I truly love my job!

*My new E-book "Superb Therapy!" is now available!  The introductory price is ONLY $3.75 and it has: Verbal Apraxia, SNACKademics, and The BEST Way to Teach Your Child Colors included. That's 3 books in one for a great price!!!

To see a preview or buy it go to:
To learn more about me go to my website.
You can order e-books ($3.75 + tax each) there too.
To order soft-cover copies of any of my 3 separate books ($10 + tax each - includes postage):

Write to me at with BOOK ORDER as a subject line and call me to confirm your order, or just call me at 201-919-4805.  

I am always available to give parents or professionals advice.  Write to me at 
& put QUESTION FOR NOELLE in the subject line or call me at: 201-919-4805.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tutoring for the average child? Why???

Spoiler: FUN math game at the end of this post!  :-)
Many parents are content if their child is in the "average" range, and are very happy if they see an "above average" score on a standardized test.

However, when parents see a "below average" or "failing" score, they instinctively reach out for, and do whatever they can do to get help for the child.

They may try on their own, at first, using flash cards to drill the child in an effort to get him to memorize addition facts or multiplication facts.

Other parents may decide to hire a tutor.
The majority of parents who hire a tutor see the expense as a necessity (i.e., an investment in their child's future academic success).

If their child is "doing okay" (is in the average or above average range), then other investments are often made; usually in extracurricular activities.  

Those children get martial arts, acting, music, gymnastic or dance lessons.  They go to ceramics or swimming classes, or spend time on a bowling league or at boy scout or girl scout meetings.  

Being an "average" or "above average" student has its reward...getting to enjoy more of the FUN stuff!


Of course, all those activities help children to be well-rounded individuals, but does it support them in reaching up to or even  beyond their true academic potential?

Why is it that a parent of a child with "average" skills doesn't get help to lift that child into the "above average" range?

Why doesn't a parent of a child with "above average" skills get support to raise that child's skills into the "superior" range?

In other words, why are parents content with what they consider (or what others may consider) "good enough?"


For years the concept of WORKING TO THE BEST OF YOUR ABILITY or WORKING TO YOUR POTENTIAL has been popular.  

It's all that we really want...that a child's work should reflect his or her potential.

But, how can someone decide what a child's potential is?

Frustrated parents may say: 

I know he can do better.  He's smart.  He's just being lazy, and his grades are suffering.


She can read pretty well, but she just won't practice.  This year she's falling behind in reading comprehension.

Parents seem to have decided what their child's potential is based on past performance.  

**Yet, in my opinion, past performance doesn't always predict future performance

What do I suggest?

I recommend getting children involved in short, FUN activities which allow them to learn and practice academic and other skills in natural and common sense ways.  

If you don't know how to do it, then a TUTOR (who does know how) might be hired, even if only for a few weeks to get you started.  

Of course, if you like the tutor and can afford to continue, then a long-term relationship might be best for your family.  

Remember it's not an all or nothing relationship. 

The length and frequency of tutoring sessions can be tailored to the child or family.

I see some families only once a month or every six weeks.  Other families prefer that I visit once or twice per week.  Every child's needs are different.  

You can take a break over the summer or increase tutoring over the summer.  

Both are valid strategies, depending on the child's needs and what other summertime activities the child is participating in.


The activities should be SHORT and FUN!

That way you have plenty of time for other things, and the child will continue to look forward to these entertaining and stimulating academic games.


This is a game which I often teach the children whom I tutor.  

It's my "PARTNERS TO 10" card game, which helps boost addition skills and builds confidence when adding long strings of numbers. 

The goal is to learn which pair of numbers or "partners" add up to 10.

Here are the "partners":

9   and   1
8   and   2
7   and   3
6   and   4
5   and   5

You can use regular playing cards, homemade cards or any number cards with numerals 1 through 9, like these wonderful Toy Story cards that are pictured below, which I found at my local dollar store. SEE PHOTOS BELOW.

It is so easy to play, and can be played slowly for beginners and more quickly once the numerical partners are known.  

Since all cards are face up, players are free to look around for answers until they eventually memorize the partners over time.

Partners To 10 can be played with others or alone (solitaire style).


How PARTNERS TO 10 is played:
Players take turns picking the top card from the deck of cards.  Each card has one numeral on it; either 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 or  9.  

This deck of cards is located where the child can reach it, in order to get a card when it is his or her turn. 

You may choose to give each child a card from the top of the deck when it is his or her turn, if the child cannot do so for himself or is impulsive and is grabbing too many cards at once or not waiting his turn.

Players place cards in front of themselves in a horizontal line.

When a player picks a card he names it and then tells what he needs to make 10.

"I picked a 7.  
I need a 3 to make 10."

"I picked a 4.  
I need a 6 to make 10."

"I picked a 3.  
I need a 7 to make 10.  
I have a 7.  
I'll put the 3 with my 7 to make 10.  
Ding, ding, ding! 
I have one point."

The pair of cards which equal 10 are pushed to the side and placed vertically, so both can be seen, one on top of the other. 

Here is the set up for one player:

Here is the set up for two players:

Each pair of cards that equals 10 is one point.

Play continues in this way until there are no more cards to pick, but the game is not over yet (if there is more than one player). 

Players may then take turns asking another player for a card they need.

"I have a 5.  I need another 5 to make 10.  Sarah, please pass me your 5."

Then it's Sarah's turn to ask for a card she needs.  

It's best to ask the player to your left for the card you need, but if that player doesn't have what you need you may then ask the next player to your left.

The game is over when all cards have been matched with their partners to make 10. 

Each player's pairs are counted.  

Five pairs = 5 points.  Many times players will end up with the same number of points and the game will end in a tie.

"We both won first place!"
"You won first place and I won second place!"


Knowing partners to 10 can help a child add a long string of numbers more quickly.

I'm Noelle Michaels, speech and learning specialist.  I enjoy tutoring and teaching parents fun ways to help their children get to higher skill levels that MEET or SURPASS their "potential." 

Truth be told, I truly love my job!

If you need ideas or suggestions, please reach out to me for a FREE consultation:
201-919-4805 (Text or Call)

Radio Show:

Youtube Channel:

- SNACKademics
- The BEST Way To Teach A Child COLORS


Monday, August 5, 2013

SHADES OF AUTISM #7: Learning Quickly

I do not teach one step at a time

I bound up the staircase of learning quickly.

When I see that a child can do something, I do not make him practice that skill.

I work with him on a more difficult form of the problem or concept.

When a child is intelligent, and his communication skills are not strong, we often simplify the things which we want to teach him.

That can lead to boredom, and a loss of motivation to learn.

Reaching for a higher level skill helps the child to become cognitively stimulated. 

It also shows us exactly what he is capable of learning.


In TWO sessions I taught Alejandro to answer True/False questions in written form, when he had never answered a True/False question before.

On day one he placed a toy in a rectangle with a TRUE statement.

On the next session he CIRCLED the word TRUE or FALSE after reading a sentence.  

He also wrote the word FALSE as an answer to a question.

After he wrote the word FALSE, I said, "Now, write your name on the bottom of the page," and he did.  

He had been putting wooden or foam letters in order to spell his name over the past two years, but this was the first time I had seen him write his name on paper. 

Alejandro also practiced other test-taking skills.  He filled in circles which were next to his answers, and put an X in a square shape next to his answers.

His parents were very excited and surprised to see him performing these higher level skills.  

We talked about the possibility of having higher level goals included in his Individual Education Plan (IEP).

Taking a TRUE - FALSE test is now within his reach, after only TWO sessions!

My advice to parents: 

~  Don't be content with learning in small increments. 

~  Try to reach higher levels quickly whenever possible (whenever you see that flash of brilliance appear).  

Contact me or have your child's therapist or teacher contact me, if you want more information about this.

I'm Noelle Michaels, Speech and Learning Specialist, and I truly love my job!

Superb Therapy, LLC
Denville, New Jersey, 07834  USA


Sunday, July 28, 2013

SHADES OF AUTISM #6: True or False

Today I started out wanting to see if Alejandro could put small toys into categories.

Not large categories, like animals vs. vehicles, but smaller differences, like animals with feathers vs animals with fur.

I thought about maybe introducing the word MAMMAL, but then another idea came to me and I went with it.
I decided to see if Alejandro could match a toy animal to a written comment about that animal. 

I grabbed a piece of paper and a pen and wrote 2 sentences, drawing a large rectangle around each one.

Alejandro read the two statements I had written down.

The cow gives milk.                  The cow flies.

I gave him a toy cow and said, "PUT IT WHERE IT GOES."

He placed it by The cow gives milk.

"Ding-ding-ding," I said.  "You have 1 point."

I gave him a toy chicken and 2 new sentences:

The chicken has fur.          The chicken has feathers.

He read each one aloud and then put the chicken on the side of the paper 

with The chicken has feathers.

It occurred to me that this was a good way to introduce TRUE or FALSE.

The animal was placed on the comment that was TRUE.

Saying, "That's TRUE! The chicken does have feathers!" is a good way to introduce the term TRUE.

Saying, "The chicken has fur!?!  No way!  That is not TRUE.  That is FALSE!" is a good way to focus on the word FALSE and it's meaning.


Being able to take a True/False quiz is an important functional academic skill to have when in the classroom environment.

Being able to differentiate when you are saying something that is TRUE and when either you, yourself, or another person is making a FALSE statement (i.e., lying), is an important functional social skill to have.

I think that starting off with this somewhat concrete activity (using a small toy replica) is an excellent first step.

I'm Noelle Michaels, speech and learning specialist.  

I am always trying to think of new ways to help children learn important skills, and I truly love my job!

Noelle Michaels, MA, CCC-SLP, LDT-C
Superb Therapy, LLC
201-919-4805 (Text or Call)

SNACKademics video:

Facebook Page:

Monday, July 22, 2013


Parents often ask me my thoughts on "Time Out."  

I don't use "Time Out" for little children at all.  

Actually, it reminds me of ostracizing, 
and (if done with anger or annoyment in the adult's voice) may come across to the child as a type of bullying. 

[I don't like the way you're acting, so you can't be part of our group.]

"Time Out" is no longer in my vocabulary, and I cringe whenever I hear an adult ask a child, "Do you want a time out?" 

or threaten, "You'd better stop it or you're getting a time out!"

In my interactions with children, "time out" has become obsolete, based on my belief that all behavior is communication.  

If a child is "misbehaving," I have found that either the child doesn't understand why he/she shouldn't be doing whatever it is he/she is doing, or the child is telling us something through the behavior.

Something like:

I'm bored, 

I want your attention, 

I love to jump off of high places,

I don't want this toy, 

I love throwing things, 

I want to show you I can throw this ball really far, 

I'm angry with you, 

When I pinch you you look at me--and I want you to look at me, 

I feel frustrated, 


Your Behavior Is Telling Me You're Out of Sorts 
(And Mommy Can't Handle It Right Now)

I do have an alternate method to time out that I use only when absolutely necessary

As soon as my youngest son could understand the command "go lie down," I began using this method. 

Now my son is nine, and I usually use it when I (myself) need a break from a bout of rudeness that he's having, and feel that I don't have the amount of patience necessary to try to find out why he's doing what he's doing (or what thoughts or feelings he's really trying to communicate).  

He knows the drill and it works every time.

I say, "You're acting must be tired, and if you're tired you need to rest, so go lie down until you aren't cranky any more."  

That way, he's in charge of how long he stays on his bed, or on the couch, or anywhere else he decides to go to rest.  That way I don't have to be the time-keeper.  

When he comes out of his bedroom (or off the couch) I ask, 

"Do you feel better?" and he answers, "Yes." 

Then I say, "Good, because it hurts my feelings when you are cranky and speak rudely to me. 

I love you.  

 I want to speak nicely to you and I want you to speak nicely to me.  Deal?"  

Then he answers, "Deal", we hug each other and go on with our day. 

(Note: If I say, "You're acting must be tired" and he replies that he's NOT tired, then I say, "Then stop acting tired and cranky" and he stops.)

At school a student could be told something similar. "You are acting like you're out of sorts or tired.  Please go sit down and relax."  

"When you feel better come back to the activity, because we really like it when you join us at circle time."

A Place For Contemplation

Another alternative, which doesn't feel as much like punishment as "time out" does, is the "thinking chair."

My older son's preschool teacher had a chair labeled with a sign that said:  THINKING.

She would ask children to go sit in the thinking chair to think about something they had done which was against the class rules, and to think of something nice that they could do instead.  

She told me that many times during the day she would find children sitting in the chair voluntarily.  When she would ask them why, they would respond, "I'm thinking".

What About "Time In?"

I'm beginning to think that "Time In" might be the best idea of all.  

Time IN could stand for Time Investment.

If you believe, as I do, that ALL BEHAVIOR IS COMMUNICATION, and you want to avoid increasing a child's behaviors that are irritating to you, you must  invest TIME.  

Time is necessary to find out what the child is communicating through the behavior.  

However, that is only the first step.

You must invest a little more time working with the child, respectfully, to address that refusal, want or need (or his/her sharing of a thought or idea).

Instead of TIME INVESTMENT, perhaps, "Time In" could stand for taking the TIME to bring a child IN...

socially and emotionally closer; to care about why the child is having such a difficult time.  

Both terms: TIME INVESTMENT and Taking TIME to bring a child IN focus on developing a stronger bond and a more communicative relationship with the child.

Both terms move away from the "Time Out" punishment or (removal of reinforcement) model.  

I would love to hear an adult ask a child, 

"Do you want a "time in?" and then see the adult scoop the child up in his/her arms and say, "You are so smart, and I'm so proud of you.  Let's go play something fun!"

That would be an exciting sight to see!  

What an important transformation in the adult/child interaction model... seeing punishment being replaced by positive affirmations and kindness.  

I look forward to the day when "Time In" is in & "Time Out" is out.  

Let's start practicing "Time In" every day and make it happen!  

As always, I truly love my job! 

CLICK to SUBSCRIBE to This Blog by Email

Noelle Michaels, MA, CCC-SLP, LDT-C
Bilingual Speech Language Pathologist
Special Educator & Learning Specialist


Saturday, May 18, 2013


Recently I commented on a post which a talented blogger wrote.  

Lexi's blog is entitled "MOSTLY True Stuff," and I love it!

Lexi was posting on how she sometimes feels jealous of others who have kids who are typical.

My response was a post entitled "Gratefulness Improves Therapy".

Lexi commented on my post:

While I appreciate that you are trying to give parents "perspective" it bothers me very much that you would belittle their struggles by comparing them to parents who have it "worse." In my experience, this is not helpful at all. What moms need, especially those in pain, trying to navigate a new system of therapy, medicine, and education, is someone to listen and to empathize with them. Yes, there is always someone that has it worse. But that doesn't mean that what a mother is going through isn't very hard.

Just because your child isn't in the hospital doesn't mean that having a diabetes is hard. Just because my daughter doesn't have diabetes doesn't mean that having a life filled with therapy isn't hard. No one has won the lottery here. We're all just trying to make it through.

As a mother of two children who have had extensive speech therapy, I beg of you to not tell mothers whose children you help how to feel. Your job isn't to give perspective. It's to get our children to communicate. 

And from me:

Hi, Lexi.

I am so sorry if it came across that I was trying to tell parents how to feel.  That is never my intention. 

What I am hoping to accomplish is that they focus on a child's strengths and the blessings in their own situation so that the child can focus on those, as well, instead of lingering in that dark place, where all is focused on the deficits or disability.  (I've been there, so I know how being in that dark place feels...the hopelessness is so overwhelming.)

As I wrote in my blog post "Thank you, dough show! I can talk!" It took me weeks to convince a little boy that he was a "talker," because his school staff had convinced him he was a signer due to his severe apraxia.

Gratefully, his parents were focused on the fact (blessing) that he could say "ma" and "da,"and that made us an unbeatable team. He was talking within 7 weeks, and two years later, he now is a chatterbox with plenty to say, working on his /r/ and consonant blends.

Before I was a speech therapist, I was a special educator for many years.  Special educators are responsible for working on communication, fine motor, gross motor, cognitive and SOCIAL EMOTIONAL skills.  That's where perspective comes into play. 

Emotional state affects one's ability to move forward productively.  I am also a believer in the power of positive thinking and optimism. 

I have seen children whose parents were told by doctors that the child would never walk or talk, and have seen the child then do so.  When parents ask me what I think will happen I say, I don't know, you don't know, the doctor doesn't know...the only one who knows is God, and God ain't talkin'.

I understand there is a period of shock, denial, acceptance, and a whole lot of "Why me?".  I totally get that.  Some days the "Why me?" takes up the whole day, and some days, we're too busy or too distracted with other things or too busy marveling in our child's cuteness and funny antics that it's more of a "Yay, me!"

I know your life is hard. I can also see, by the photograph of your beautiful daughter in that flowing yellow dress, and the comical "selfies" that she took of her dad in a towel, that you are frequently being pulled toward your blessings, like a small piece of metal to a powerful magnet. 

Perhaps finding topics to write about in your blog is one reason your eyes are open to seeing all the small and big positives in your own life.  In my mind, that photo and those selfies represent HUGE positive moments, a window into what is already a reality or a future possibility (a modeling career, the intelligence to maneuver the computer...realize what's going on...react appropriately via facial expression, then get over it...on to the next selfie...hmmm, maybe Daddy will open the door again). 

Those huge positive moments deserve great celebration and lots of lingering in the positive feelings that they generate.  Thankfully, you've shared them with many people, and that positive glow entered the readers' minds, causing a "blessings" kind of tingle.  The fact that you posted the pic and the selfies shows me that you do realize their importance. 

In my opinion, focusing on jealously of others who are more "fortunate" is a REALLY GOOD TOPIC for a blog, and getting others thinking, as you did me, but, again, in my opinion, it does little for getting your children to a better place...unless, of course, it lights a fire under you to give you the strength to keep keepin' on with the difficult situation and circumstances you find yourself in. 

All of this is only my opinion. I own it that I am not a "typical" speech language pathologist.  Because of my age, experience as a mother, experience as a teacher and special educator, along with my training in bilingual education, I stuck out like a sore thumb, as I studied for my degree.  My thinking outside the box got me in lots of "trouble" while I maneuvered my graduate program later in life.  But, now, after over 30 years working with children, and seeing all that I have seen. I am confident that my view of things is something that I need to share, even if, at first, it's not welcomed. The multitude of thanks I get, after the fact, is all the proof I need that I'm doing the right thing. 

It's not easy for me, though, because I'm a sensitive person.  Being told, in other words, that I don't know what I'm talking about is something I deal with all the time.  That's when I recall all the kids who run into my office or welcome me at their front door with huge smiles on...all the kids who cry when it's time for our session to end...all the parents who tell me things are much better at school now, or that relatives are amazed that they can now understand what little Johnnie is saying. 

Yesterday was a REALLY bad day.  I even called my sister to tell her I felt disheartened (I don't think I've ever used that word before).  A supervisor of a major organization chose to take the opinion of two people who (evaluated) saw a child for 60 to 90 minutes over my opinion (having spent numerous hours with this child in a family setting) which ended up having the child denied services.  I was sick to my stomach.  I felt extremely disrespected.   

This supervisor has known me for 8 YEARS! 

DOESN'T SHE KNOW WHO I AM AND WHAT I DO????? (Such a Reese Witherspoon moment) :-)

However, I took hundreds, possibly thousands, of deep breaths and I did what I usually do in this case...I offer inexpensive private therapy myself, because I'm ashamed that my colleagues are ignoring this child.  

You see, this child is not sleeping, is biting, hitting, throwing things at people and talking very little.  He is hurting his older sibling on a regular basis, and according to my more "respected" colleagues, all he needs is some time in a daycare...oh yeah, and his parents need some training, too, in parenting skills, even though they've raised two older siblings who don't bite, hit or throw things.

Yesterday, I went to this little boy's home bearing a piece of equipment...something I just discovered, and had tried with my own son, who had trouble falling asleep.  It's an iLs (Integrated Listening System) pillow.  I took a training for the related head-phone system about a month ago.

The pillow plays ambient music that has been filtered in some way.  It costs somewhere around $280-$290; there is a multiple-pillow discount.  Contact: Chris Dunbar 303-962-2517

I told mom how to use the pillow at bedtime, then we had a therapy session, during which he bit his mom.  :-(

After giving her suggestions as we worked together, mom asked me, "Is there a book that I can read?"
My response: 

"A book? I went to college for 30 years! I've read all the books!  Just do what I tell you to do!" Then we both laughed.

All in all, I left there feeling a little better, because he did try to say my name "oh-eh" a dozen times and did blow on the pretend soup we were cooking, when I told him to.

Last night I received this text:  

You are a godsend! Within 20 minutes of putting his head on the pillow he fell asleep!!!! Fingers crossed he sleeps all night. Thank you soooo much.  Ur truly amazing and I'm so lucky to have u!  Seriously love u.

OMG...thank you, Vivian, for helping me to keep on keepin' on, when I was feeling like throwing in the towel and going to live in a cabin in the woods...for real.

P.S. - This morning I received another text:

The kid slept 12 hours!!!!!
Noelle I heart u! 


Lexi, I totally relate to and respect your struggle, and I hope to meet you and your wonderful family one day, in person, if you'd like.  I only wish you the best and am grateful for your blog and your generosity is sharing your life with me. -- Noelle  

My name is Noelle Michaels, and I am a speech and learning specialist. 

Doing my job is a priority in my life.  My training as a special educator has taught me to have a holistic approach and integrate all the child's skills to get the best communication results that I can.  

I develop authentic relationships with my clients and teach through play.  Those who know my work never doubt that I care about the children and their families.  

This week was a struggle, but, after all the heartache and disappointment, I STILL truly love my job.


I am available for families in the North Jersey area to do a FREE 30-minute in-home consultation.

I am available via email or phone, and will speak to any parent or professional with questions or concerns for FREE. If you're outside my area, but are interested in me visiting you, let me know.  I may be traveling to your area soon!

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And...if you need help or advice, please contact me!

Noelle Michaels, MA, CCC-SLP, LDT-C
Bilingual Speech Language Pathologist
Special Educator & Learning Specialist
Text: 201-919-4805    

Friday, May 17, 2013

Gratefulness Improves Therapy Results

When parents come to me for a speech evaluation, they fill out an intake form with their information and concerns.

As we do the intake they tell me all the things their child can't do.  

I write them down, and sometimes the list is extensive.  

Often, the moms get all choked up as they describe how difficult their life is.  

We talk about the goals we want to reach as a team. 

We talk about the child's strengths and how those strengths will help us get there.  

We decide on a frequency and, once therapy is authorized, we begin our work together. 

My first goal for every child is to make it so fun that they want to return over and over again.  That's my way of making everyone's lives a little easier.

Some moms come to me and have been hardened by their experiences.

They inspire me to keep on keepin' on.

Some moms are in continual emotional pain.

My first goal for every suffering mom is to help to give her perspective.  

I remind her of other moms out there. 

If her child only has 10 words, I remind her of the children who are 15 years old and have never uttered a sound besides crying in pain or howling in despair, frustration or anger.

If her child is hyperactive, I remind her of the mother who is sitting at the bedside of a child in a hospital who will never walk, and how that mom would give her right arm to have her child run about the room as her own little boy is doing right now.

There are mothers who have listed 15 different things their children DO EAT, including BROCCOLI, and then call the child a "picky" eater.  

Then I explain that my own child had an eating delay and continues to have a limited diet, and that I would throw a huge celebratory party (including champagne), if my son finally ate all those things.
As a mother of a son with various "issues," I was very lucky that his dad always saw the bright side.  As my clinical brain was focused on atypical behaviors, delayed speech and poor coordination, his dad would reply, "but he's such a cool kid!"

His dad helped me to gain perspective, as I took care of all the "therapy."

I had him in the middle of my graduate studies in Speech Language Pathology, and my supervisor once commented that I had my own clinic at home.

I bathed my son 3 times a day (because he verbalized more when he was in the warm water), fed him in the bathtub until he was 3 years old (because he ate more calmly in the warm water), and signed him up for Tae Kwon Do when he was 4 years old, because I was hoping it would help with both his tantrums "YES, SIR!" and coordination (which it did).

I was happy not having an official diagnosis, because it wouldn't tell me anything I didn't already know.

The school system's denial of my son's difficulties forced me to go to the neuro-developmental specialist for a diagnosis, because my requests for someone to help him with his fine motor issues, since he first started Kindergarten, were being denied.  

My years of experience as a special educator and my knowledge as a speech language pathologist were ignored by the school staff.  It seemed that I was being perceived as an overly-concerned parent who was making mountains out of mole hills.

I tried to explain that my son was in as good of a shape as he was because of all the hours of therapy I had given him at home, myself, since he was a toddler.  They didn't seem to care. 

During that time, as I was still learning to focus on the positive (his strengths), I was forced to list the deficits, in order to get him help.

His second grade teacher was the one who saw his need for help in the academic environment, and we finally got an IEP.  But, as if having a child with "issues" isn't hard enough, it didn't happen until we went through the nightmare of him being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. 

Let's add to the perspective pile:

If you think going through therapy with your child is difficult, try having to sticking him up to 10 times a day for either a blood test or an injection of a syringe filled with insulin.  

I dare you.  

Have him cringe from your touch, and look at you with fear and mistrust.  

Try that on for size for a year, and then tell me you don't feel luckier than a lottery winner that your child gets to go through his or her days eating whenever and whatever he or she wants without a thought of his or her pancreas and beta cells.

I am SO grateful that my son now has calloused fingertips and an insulin pump, so the sticking is minimal and routine.

I am grateful that he doesn't have an even more serious or terminal disease.  

I am grateful that he is such a cool kid that is now flourishing in his acting, voice, musical theatre and hip-hop dance classes.  

I am grateful that I decided to become a special educator, learning disabilities teacher-consultant and speech language pathologist, so that I could eventually help my own child, and so many others.

I am also grateful that my own experiences help me to kind-of step into the shoes of the moms and dads I meet, so that I can try to see their perspective in some things, and identify with the ongoing pain and disappointment.  

Then I work with them and watch that pain being slowly replaced by relief, as skills improve.

I am Noelle Michaels, a speech and learning specialist. 

I am grateful to be able to help parents (and even children) change their perspectives and reach for higher goals than they ever thought possible.  This is one reason that I truly love my job.


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Noelle Michaels, MA, CCC-SLP, LDT-C
Bilingual Speech Language Pathologist
Special Educator & Learning Specialist
Text: 201-919-4805