Friday, February 22, 2013

Can SNACKademics Save The World?



Well, what would happen if kids learned academic, speech, language, vocabulary, spelling, reading, writing, science, math and social skills 

         Every Day 

                      Quickly & Easily 

                                   During Snack Times & Meal Times?  

What exactly would happen?

Think about it...
It seems that we'd use less paper.  Children wouldn't need so much practice and drill, because they would know all their mathematics concepts before they ever took a formal mathematics class.

We'd have stronger family units, because children would be so competent that they wouldn't need to spend so many hours on homework each day trying to master academic skills. Families could spend more enjoyable quality time together.

We'd have more successful students with flexible divergent thinking skills...(real problem solvers and scientists) graduating into the work force, and discovering ways to put into effect increased productivity and efficiency, for both private and public businesses and agencies.

We'd have more capable, content communicators...happy members in our society, who had learned to articulate well and appropriately verbalize their joys and accomplishments, as well as their frustrations, fears and concerns.  

They would be able to acknowledge and process negative feelings, instead of internalizing them and harboring resentment or anger.


Exposing Young Children To "Difficult" Material

I was still a child myself when a question occurred to me: 

"How can little kids learn the word 'elephant,' if it's such a big word?  For goodness sake, it even has a ph in the middle of it!" 

Over the years that question returned to my mind over and over again. 

Eventually, I realized that it didn't matter how big the word was.   

If it was something a child liked then he would learn it.

I stand by that realization to this day, and that's exactly why I try to make learning exciting and enjoyable.  

The child gets invested, motivation is inherent, and the rest is matter how advanced the material seems to be to an adult.

Isn't it amazing how kids are running rings around most adults when it comes to technology?  It's something that interests them, therefore, they can learn it easily (without stress) from an early age.


Back to saving the world...

Less Stress = Less Disease

And Less Disease Would Be Wonderful

(& could actually lead to lower costs for health care)

Using advanced vocabulary with young children is helpful to them.  It saves them stress and heartache in the end.  They won't need to spend so much time studying for the PSAT, SAT or GRE. 

Some people (who are good students) go along without a hitch, until there comes a day...

maybe in elementary school...maybe in high school or college...when all of a sudden school becomes stressful that you wonder if you're going to be able to handle it. (This could be in an academic context or a social context - [bullying]).

Maybe you can remember a class (and most of us have had at least one) where you became lost and felt helpless as the class moved on and you lagged behind, barely passing quizzes, or feeling like the teacher was speaking a foreign language?  

Perhaps, the teacher was saying things that just didn't make any sense to you.

Perhaps you understood the material theory, but were struck with fear when you had to prove your knowledge in a concrete way by building a model, doing a presentation or teaching that same material to someone else.

I can remember at least 3 different classes, and these 3 happened in college.

The first was Physics 1 (the professor had an accent, and I sat in the class for weeks before realizing that the word he kept repeating that made no sense to me was "angle.").

Calculus 4 - it amazed me that I could get an A+ in Calculus 3 and then walk into Calculus 4 and be lost from day one.

Sailing 101 - On the first day someone capsized a boat.  
The tip of the mast became lodged in the muck on the bottom of the sound in the Flushing, Queens area.  It was February and I saw two of my classmates struggling to get out of the freezing water.  

I had taken Sailing as an "easy" elective course.  The fear that gripped me each time I entered the sailboat was tremendous.  I finished the course, but only because I always went into the boat that the instructor was in.  As an A student, it was disappointing getting a B in a course that was supposed to be a breeze.  That grade ended up bringing down my average quite a bit.

Now, imagine what would have been different if my parents had discussed starboard, port, jib, tacking and other boating terms with me during lunch or dinner over the years.  

What would have happened if I had rolled my Oreos down a cardboard ramp and learned the term "inclined plane," when I was knee high to a grasshopper? 

I might have earned A's in those courses and my stress level would have been less during my undergraduate studies...less stress...a healthier life and less medical costs over the years. 

---------------------------------------------------------------- it or hate it?

I believe that we adults think of some subjects as "difficult," only because we were older when we were first introduced to that particular subject, material or related concepts. 

I always did well at math, but in the 11th grade, I struggled like crazy with geometry.  I had never been introduced to geometrical concepts until that time.  Of course I learned some shapes, but that was about it.  I got through geometry in the strangest way...I would make marks with my nail into my pencil and fashion it into a make-shift ruler so that I could measure the illustrations (which were usually in scale and proportionate) and figure out lengths of sides.  For a person who likes and does well in math, it was a terrible feeling to suddenly be lost.

Well, now I'm on a mission.  I do whatever I can to introduce the common sense aspect of geometry to young children whenever the opportunity arises.

Using my SNACKademics attitude and techniques, I'll say:

"Hey.  Look at this!  If I take my square napkin and fold it from corner to corner...right in half...if I bisect it just like this...I can turn the square into a triangle!  It's like magic!"

"When I open up the triangle napkin I can see the two triangles that make up the square.  Wow!  Two triangles make a square!  Cool!"

I don't give definitions or try too hard to explain it.  The object we are looking at, playing with or eating gives the concrete example of an abstract concept.  Math becomes real... common sense...not so scary.


Yes, math can be frightening and anxiety producing to some people.  Ask a group of adults what their worst subject was in school, and you'd be surprised how many will say, "Math." 

I have found that many teachers (of very young children) have what some might call a math phobia.  They are very uncertain of their own math skills, and will say, "I always hated math" or "Give me anything else and I'll do it, just not math."

These teachers are dependent on using textbooks, word-for-word, in order to teach mathematics to their students.  In fact, it may be why some of them chose to teach the youngest of the that they don't have to teach division, fractions or algebraic concepts.

SNACKademics Can Help Teachers

I believe that using SNACKademics (every day in their own classes) would give teachers with math phobias the confidence that they lack when teaching math.  

They, themselves would learn the common sense aspects of math and be less stressed when writing their lesson plans or getting unexpected questions from students.


The Lasting Affect Of Learning "Difficult" Things, 

             At A Young Age, 

                              In A NON-Stressful Way

During one year, when I was teaching kindergarten, I began using more advanced geometric terms with my students.

One day the school secretary told me that a boy named Frankie had been walking near her desk when he stopped and stared at the Christmas display.  He took one of the round ornaments off the tree and brought it to her.  He held it out to her in the palm of his hand and asked her, 

"Miss Rosemary, did you know that this is a sphere?"

She couldn't wait to tell me what he had said to her when she saw me at lunch time in the teacher's lounge.

I was very proud of Frankie that day, and I'm sure that when he was in high school and the geometry teacher mentioned the word sphere, he smiled and thought back to that shiny Christmas ornament.  A positive memory was tightly tied to the word sphere, because he learned it early-on in a stress-free way.

Happier, more academically-successful children populating the world has to have positive, wide-reaching ramifications.

I'm Noelle Michaels, the creator of SNACKademics, and the author of the book entitled, SNACKademics: Turning Snacks And Meals Into Phenomenal Learning Experiences 

I am convinced that doing SNACKademics with young children from the age of 1 or 2 would change our world in a good way.   

If there is a school or district that would like to see if SNACKademics could raise test scores...give me a call!  

I believe that it would! (201-919-4805)

Just the thought of all the positive changes that would come out of more children having the opportunity to enjoy and learn from SNACKademics makes me smile, feel proud and admit wholeheartedly, that I truly love my job!

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To order Noelle's books:
- Verbal Apraxia
- SNACKademics
- The BEST Way To Teach A Child Colors (Or Anything)

By mail: $10 each; money order  (inc. postage/shipping)
Made Out To:  Noelle Michaels
Send To: 50 Summit Drive, Denville, NJ  07834 

Thank you for all your support!  

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




Sunday, February 10, 2013

Is Happy High Chair An Oxymoron?

Years ago, when my daughter was about 11 years old, a friend of mine said to my daughter, "YOU are an oxymoron," to which she replied, "Well, YOU are a regular moron." 

He laughed so hard, I thought I was going to have to call an ambulance. That was the first time I heard the word oxymoron.

So, the question I am exploring today is this: 
"Is happy high chair an oxymoron?" 

And, my answer is: 
"I believe that to most parents it is."
Using a High Chair During Therapy
If a child can fit into a high chair, and the family owns one, I prefer to do speech therapy session (or a majority of the session) with the little one in a high chair.

Most parents say:  
" hates the high chair...he won't sit in it...we haven't used it in months...there's no way we're getting him in the high chair."

Then I say: 
"Give me three visits.  The second visit he'll go in with little resistance.  On the third visit he'll be running to the high chair and climbing in himself, when he sees my car pull into your driveway.  


He will be screaming, "No!" crying, saying, "More," and holding onto the tray when we try to get him out of the high chair at the end of the 60 minute session." 

"I don't know about that," the parents reply, making the "she's crazy" sign to each other behind my back, when they think that I'm not looking.

I've also had a social worker, at a Child Study Team meeting, roll her eyes, laugh and say..."Oh, yeah...the high chair," when I mentioned it, as if using a high chair was a totally inappropriate thing to do with a two-year-old child.

I will admit that I didn't always use a high chair, however, what I found was that being in the chair helped the child to focus or attend for a greater length of time.  In addition, by pairing a pleasurable play activity with the high chair, the child began to enjoy sitting in the chair for periods from 10 to 60 minutes.

The first time I would show the child a can of Play-Doh and say, "Do you want to play with this?"  "Yes?"  "Okay...then sit in the chair."  

I may have to repeat it a few times, and the parent may have to help me to get the child in the chair the first time, but once I start channeling my Zen Play-Doh Master and once I get going with my Dough-Show Speech Therapy techniques, there isn't a kid within 100 miles who can resist my mesmerizing charms. :-)

If the parent, eventually, wants to include some "high chair" time during the week I always suggest getting a shoe box and filling it with things that can only be played with when sitting in the high chair (ex: Play-Doh, markers, water color paints, a few tiny cars, stickers, crayons, etc.).  The box (and its special contents) should be stored out of reach and out of view when the child is not in the chair.

"Out" or "Down"

If a child asks or gestures to get out of the high chair, I will immediately try to get him to point to the floor or say out or down, and then quickly help him out of the chair.

I never want the child to feel confined or trapped.  I want him to trust me to let him out of the chair any time he asks, and after a few times the children usually stop asking to get out.

Videotaping + High Chair = Clear Proof of Improvement

The first time I used a video camera to tape a child during therapy was about ten years ago. 

I was in a home with many other therapists.  We were treating a non-verbal 18-month-old boy who had been diagnosed with autism.  At the team meeting all the other therapists wanted to discuss the problem that the boy was very resistant, uncooperative and crying a lot.  

I had no clue what they were talking about.  This little boy was cooperative and never cried with me.  When I explained that to them they didn't believe me.  And, so, I decided to prove it to them by videotaping our next session.

The next day, after letting the mom know about my plan, I sneaked into the house quietly and set up the high chair and video camera (on a tripod).  Then I called out, "Jordan! Noelle is here!"

Jordan came lumbering down the hall and towards me.  His gross motor skills were not the best, so I stayed behind him as he tried to climb up into the high chair.  His face was towards the camera and I was busy giving him a boost with my hands under his feet, as I said, "Up, up, up" over and over again.

I filmed the entire session and went home to watch it, to make sure it was evident that he was content and happy throughout the session.

Well, holy smokes!  

I looked at the first few minutes of the film in amazement.  As Jordan was trying to climb up into the high chair (and his face was toward the camera - which I couldn't see) he was mouthing the word "up."  Wow!  Our little "non-verbal" boy was no longer "non-verbal," now...was he?

What a blessing that high chair was!

It turned out that Jordan had Verbal Apraxia, so his verbal utterances were few and far between.  I remember, after he turned 3 his mother called me to continue to work with him, and I was filming him in the high chair again.

I had a car that, when I pressed down on the roof, a guy leaned out of the door sideways.  I was there for an hour pressing down that roof, and each time the guy came out I said, "Hi, Daddy!"

At the end of 60 minutes Jordan said, "Hi, Dad."  

I lunged toward the camera, saying, "Please be on the tape, please be on the tape" over and over again in my head.

When I looked at the display, I saw it flashing, indicating that the tape had run out.  Oh, no! I felt like I had been punched in the stomach, but I still had an ounce of hope. 

I quickly rewound the tape, and sure enough, just before it ran out it had recorded Jordan saying, "Hi, Dad."  I was ecstatic!

I called for his mom and told her.  "Jordan said, 'Hi, Dad.'"  She often referred to Jordan as non-verbal, even though I had told her that he wasn't non-verbal, so she really didn't believe me.

I rewound the clip and played it over and over again for her.  Finally, she admitted that he really did say, "Hi, Dad."

The biggest thing holding back kids with Verbal Apraxia is that they, themselves, don't believe that they are "talkers."  Helping them to see themselves as talkers is key.  Their parents must also see them as talkers, and believe that they will talk.  A high chair is a tool that we can use to support that happening.  

A high chair can create a safe, happy place where a child can use all of his efforts on communicating, and not on maintaining posture, maintaining balance or moving about. 

"I'm Noelle Michaels."
"I believe that happy high chair is NOT an oxymoron."

"I know, without a doubt, that I truly love my job!"

CLICK to SUBSCRIBE to This Blog by Email

(You will get an email ONLY when I publish a new post - approx 3 per month)

Check out my weekly radio broadcast (live or as an archive):

Check out my youtube channel 

Follow me on Twitter:

LIKE me on Facebook: 

Order my books:
- Verbal Apraxia
- SNACKademics
- The BEST Way To Teach A Child Colors (Or Anything)

By mail: $10 each; money order  (inc. postage/shipping)
Made Out To:  Noelle Michaels
Send To: 50 Summit Drive, Denville, NJ  07834 

Thank you for all your support!  

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