Providing Children with a Toolbox of Skills with Child Development Expert Sarah Shawesh – Part I [IEP 036]
Preparing and equipping children with a toolbox of skills at a young age is so crucial to their success as they grow into adolescence and adulthood. It’s important that educators and parents help children understand how to decipher their emotions along with learning academic skills.
In this episode, we’re joined by Sarah Shawesh. Sarah is a Program and Family Development Specialist, Clever Endeavors Early Care & Education, Inc. a Child and Adolescent Studies Faculty Member at California State University, Fullerton, and Program Coordinator, Orange County Association for the Education of Young Children (OCAEYC).
Full show transcript at the bottom of this post.
What We Discuss in This Episode:
- The importance of emphasizing children’s strengths and encouraging them to be their true selves
- Looking at education as a whole and changing it on a holistic level is more effective than trying to change it one student at a time
- Is “school” becoming a dirty word? What can we do about it?
- As educators, it’s more important to provide children up to 5 years old with a toolbox of skills that they can take with them as they grow instead of just being someone who teaches information
- It might seem overwhelming but we need a huge shift in the way educators teach young children in school
- How can teachers prepare notes that are objective and which can be passed on to the following year’s educators
- We should be having conversations with children even younger than 3 years old about regulation, emotions, controlling feelings, etc.
- Even if a child is described as “non-verbal,” that doesn’t mean that they don’t communicate at all
Sarah Shawesh – LinkedIn
Thank you for listening!
Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to the show to receive every new episode delivered straight to your podcast player every Tuesday.
If you enjoyed this episode and believe in our message, then please help us get the word out about this podcast. Rate and Review this show in Apple Podcasts, Stitcher Radio, or Google Play. It helps other listeners find this show.
Be sure to connect with us and reach out with any questions/concerns:
This podcast is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not to be construed as legal advice specific to your circumstances. If you need help with any legal matters, be sure to consult with an attorney regarding your specific needs.
Full Show Transcript
Vickie Brett: Welcome to The Inclusive Education Project. I’m Vickie Brett.
Amanda Selogie: I’m Amanda Selogie. We’re two civil rights lawyers on a mission to change the conversation about education, civil rights, and modern activism.
Vickie Brett: Each week, we’re going to explore new topics, which are going to educate and empower others.
Amanda Selogie: And give them a platform, connect change in education and level the playing field.
Vickie Brett: All right. Still learning how to turn this thing on. How many episodes is this?
Amanda Selogie: I think I normally turn it on, I think that’s the problem.
Vickie Brett: I’m sitting on the wrong side of the table.
Amanda Selogie: Oh that is weird. I’m normally on your left. I don’t like that either. This is really weird.
Vickie Brett: I hate it. You know what? Change is good, so I’m just going to go with it.
Amanda Selogie: Although now that I think about it, why is it me that normally deals with equipment. We know how technology does not like me.
Vickie Brett: True. But you also like to be in control of things, so I just, I go with the flow.
Amanda Selogie: I’m not going to deny it.
Vickie Brett: Today on therapy corner.
Amanda Selogie: Oh I like that, therapy corner. That’s good. So today we’re going to hash out our differences.
Vickie Brett: Oh lord. That’s … Well we could spend so much … No, I’m just kidding. Anyway-
Amanda Selogie: That’s what Facebook is for, right?
Vickie Brett: Oh jeez.
Amanda Selogie: Jeez, I’m just kidding.
Vickie Brett: Hashtag Russia is hacking us on Facebook.
Amanda Selogie: It’s probably listening to us right now.
Vickie Brett: Oh gosh. Great, sorry Russia. First day of summer was this week, so I think the weather is shaping up to be very nice this weekend.
Amanda Selogie: I hope it’s nice this weekend.
Vickie Brett: Well Amanda’s celebrating her birthday this weekend so that’ll be fun.
Amanda Selogie: It’ll be the tenth anniversary of my 21st birthday.
Vickie Brett: Yeah we’ll see if you … Yeah let’s see how many shots you’ll take.
Amanda Selogie: On a Sunday? Hm, I don’t know.
Vickie Brett: So that should be fun but …
Amanda Selogie: I’m getting old guys, getting old.
Vickie Brett: Oh we have a couple things that we’re doing this weekend. I’m seeing you this entire weekend.
Amanda Selogie: I know, you’re going to get so sick of me.
Vickie Brett: I am. Still, I’ll probably just take some time to myself next week. But we’re really excited today, because it’s not just us today on the pod … Oh wait, are we saying inclusive education project podcast?
Amanda Selogie: Oh no, I guess I should introduce ourself. This is the inclusive education project podcast, for all you projectors out there.
Vickie Brett: Yeah for all you projectors, you’ve been listening since November, it’s now June. So thank you for listening. We’re getting that Facebook page together and that community that we wanted to build up, so that should be launching very soon. That was kind of like our summer project and we’re really excited about it. We’re kind of going over rules and regulations. Apparently you need that sometimes. But we’re really excited with the amount of correspondence that we’ve gotten from you guys just on Facebook and Instagram and even via email. So keep sending us stuff. So today we will be talking … Well we’ll probably have a couple different areas that we get into, but our guest is Sarah Shawesh. And I’m actually going to let her tell you all the places that she works. Because it’s just so amazing. How are you able to keep everything together and look fabulous? I don’t understand.
Sarah Shawesh: It is. It really … You know I read this thing years ago that said if you find something you love, you never really work a day in your life. And so I have somehow created a lifestyle where I work everyday of my life, but love everything I do, and so it feels like I’m creating a passion not clocking in hours. And so with that said, I get to work with people who are six weeks old to 60 years old. I am a part-time faculty member for Cal State Fullerton. A early childhood development specialist for a private preschool in Orange. So I get to support their children, their families, their parents, our staff, our teachers. Really the goal is to look at how we increase quality in the first eight years of life. And so then in addition to that, which really aligns with kind of my mission at the preschool, I get to do what we call a program coordinator for the Orange County Association for the education of young children. Really a mouthful.
Vickie Brett: It’s like six different hats.
Sarah Shawesh: It’s like this ongoing speech. But we usually refer to the association as OCAEYC.
Vickie Brett: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Sarah Shawesh: Yeah, that’s me in a nutshell.
Amanda Selogie: Well, I don’t know how you have time to have a life. We always talk about how we have so many different hats on. But I think it makes you so much better at what you do if your all-in. Not that people who aren’t, you know working every day of their life like we are aren’t all in, but I think, like we like to say that we eat, sleep, breathe, special education and education, and you know it makes it … When you’re passionate about something, typically you work really hard to be like we say, experts at it or really good at it. So we’re so happy to have you here. I mean even the conversation we were just having before we started the recording, I was just … I’m really excited.
Vickie Brett: Yeah I actually got to see you speak at the Help Me Grow, shout out to the Help Me Grow’s connection café. That’s like the bazillionth time that I’ve shouted them out. We’re getting someone from help me grow on in the summer, so that’ll be fun. Because they do exist you guys. And-
Sarah Shawesh: And they’re amazing.
Vickie Brett: Yeah they’re amazing. I mean just the way that they connect so many different people to so many different organizations, just within Orange County is amazing. They’re like the 411. But yeah I had the pleasure of seeing you do a presentation relating to technology, which we’ll probably get into a little bit later. But what was really great about your presentation is that it was what you were talking about. It was multi-sensory. It was getting everybody involved. And that’s a hit-or-miss group. It’s morning, not super early, but you were able to get everybody to participate, and I mean it really resonated with me because we’re always striving to learn different things. We don’t know everything. And yes we can speak from our experiences, and that’s what I just felt from you. Like even in your presentation you were just popping in like all these anecdotes about things that you’ve come across and things that you have used. It was great.
Sarah Shawesh: After that presentation, a gentleman came up to me afterwards and he’s like how do you prep for something like this? And my expertise, my masters is in human development. So there are lots of things that as a community we’re going to share, right? And that’s going to be the same across wide groups of people. Of course there are individual differences, but given that we’re all people, there are anecdotes that I can pop in, that help you understand development across the board so fortunate that … One, I have the gift of gab. I always joke that, I was that student in fifth grade where the teacher was like stop talking, stop talking. Ad now we joke like, huh I make a lot of money talking. Like that’s great. That’s what I do.
Amanda Selogie: My family loves to joke about that too. You have on your report cards, doing great but a little chatty.
Sarah Shawesh: Absolutely right? And it’s like when we cultivate strengths, mine was talking. And so when we combine that with the ability to understand human development, it’s like really you just have to connect with people, you have to drive that relationship.
Amanda Selogie: Well talk about working towards someones strengths, right? When we were kids, that was a bad thing.
Sarah Shawesh: Absolutely.
Amanda Selogie: And how many occupations are there out there that if you have this kind of personality, and you like to talk, and you like to be in front of people, and you like working with people, that is such a good thing. But are we discouraging kids from being their true selves? Because in a very structured environment in the way that we expect kids to learn, even though we know that that’s not the way that most kids learn. I mean and that’s a big factor of like how we’re looking at how we’re teaching these kids.
Vickie Brett: Well it’s another brick in the wall, right?
Sarah Shawesh: Absolutely. Yeah.
Vickie Brett: And to be able to just conform, sit down, math, reading … You know, arithmetic, reading, and writing you know. And … Your face.
Sarah Shawesh: I took a deep breath. I needed to compose myself.
Amanda Selogie: Giving you anxiety. But maybe this is therapy corner.
Vickie Brett: Yes. But so you get to deal then with the early … With preschool. So you see that everyday. So in the type of programming … So kind of walk us through a typical day. Are you kind of the one that’s coming to the teachers with ideas or it works kind of both ways? Or yeah, walk us through a day.
Sarah Shawesh: That’s probably like the greatest part about my day is that I don’t have a typical day, right. And I don’t have like … I have a desk. I have a setting, but I’m rarely there. Ad it kind of goes two ways right? Sometimes I’m going to parents or families, or even children. I get … I mean the greatest part about my job is that I get to still work one-on-one with children. And sometimes it’s the teacher’s coming to me. So sometimes I’m going to them, sometimes they’re coming to me. Sometimes it’s about what are the benchmarks of quality in early childhood? Right? One of the things that we look at in the first eight years, is that we have to do all the benchmarks. So there is a study that came out a few years ago that said that a school only hit nine out of ten benchmarks and so they didn’t reach all of the research of quality.
So you really have to meet all ten to be considered a quality program. So sometimes it’s me going to them and saying, “hey this benchmark is a little off.” And other times it’s them coming to me saying, “this thing is happening, and I need a quality model. Or this thing is happening and I need a bank of research.” And so I don’t have a typical day per say. But those are kind of my favorite things. When you have those teachable moments, when you’re able to talk about things in the moment. I’m such an application learner. I can’t learn out of a textbook. A few years ago I was on this panel for Cal State Fullerton. It was seven current student and myself a professor-
Vickie Brett: Oh wow.
Sarah Shawesh: And the facilitator asked, did any of you have trouble getting into college? And here I am, these students and the professor, and I’m the only one that raised my hand.
Vickie Brett: Wow.
Sarah Shawesh: But part of that is because I’m an application learner. If you put it in a textbook I don’t know it. But if you put it into real-life I’m, like yes, I understand this.
Vickie Brett: Like when did that first hit you that that … Because I mean …
Sarah Shawesh: That that was a thing?
Vickie Brett: No because early on-
Amanda Selogie: Or that that was your … That was something that you had to figure out for yourself.
Vickie Brett: Yeah, because that’s so interesting, and I feel like by second grade, like how many textbooks had you read by the time you’re in second grade, and you’re just like, oh my gosh I hate this.
Sarah Shawesh: I … School was not my thing. My mom used to joke like it’s scary how smart you could be.
Vickie Brett: Oh.
Sarah Shawesh: My mom is an amazing person, my mom is great, but that was kind of the theme is like I didn’t really apply myself. I was never really interested. I had an experience after my undergrad where I went and studied abroad in Germany on a military base.
Vickie Brett: Oh wow.
Sarah Shawesh: And on this military base, running their Early Childhood Center with the spouses and significant others of actively deployed military. And so as soon as … They didn’t have child development backgrounds. They didn’t know … They just got this job and we’re currently in training. Which was like these online webinars that they like could click through and complete. And so during my time there, I was there for four months, as soon as people found out that I had like even an ounce of information, they’d be like can you help me with this? Can you tell me about this? How do I do this? And so I left that experience being like, okay I need more. I have to be able to provide more … Tapping in here can create something really magical for zero to eight.
Amanda Selogie: What I love when you look at kind of what you’re doing, how you explained your non-typical days. It’s not just you know about the individual child that you’re working with but more of trying to build a better structure as a whole of the school, and of the teachers, and changing the way that they look at the class and that they will look at the kids. Rather than, and we’ve talked about this in the planning council that I’m in, and how we need to change the way that schools are having their approach all together. We talked about individualized education plans, IEP’s are so individualized, and we’re focused so much of our world is focused on that one individual child, and what frustrates us the most, and why we started the nonprofit and the podcast, is that if we have to help one kid at a time, I mean everyone kid we help, there’s five more that we need to help. And we’re never going to change the way that things work. So we really need to be looking at it from a holistic approach. And that’s why I like the human approach of looking at how we’re teaching these kids not, what does this one child need. And I know that it needs to be individualized as well, but we need to be looking at that other component.
Sarah Shawesh: The whole structure. Absolutely. And I think part of the structure needs to be that everybody is an individual. That I am a normative developing expert, right? And so when people come to me and the first thing they want to tell me about is the three kids in their class, that they think have special needs. I’m like wait a second. If you are a teacher. First of all you have to recognize that all of your children have needs. Right?
Amanda Selogie: Yeah.
Sarah Shawesh: They may not be … There’s a spectrum of needs, right? But everybody comes to you with a set of needs, and so to be focused on those three robs from what your introverted child needs. What your obedient child needs. They all need something. And so we don’t want to disregard the other 20 children because these three take the most of your attention. My biggest fear, and I think it was something that you said that sparked it, is that at some point school will become a dirty word. Right? Like at some point educators are amazing, education is an amazing concept. But all of these little things that are happening in schools, become so taboo right? Where we’re, wait a second. The whole foundation has to change. We’re-
Vickie Brett: I think we’re already there. Right? I think with … I was talking to somebody the other day and I was like well look of where we’re at with all these school shootings. You can’t get away with it. And that’s just, like there’s a plethora of things that get to there, but I mean just taking that out of the equation, you’re getting to a point where you know, if we’re getting the voucher system where we’re doing this, and private schools … I know … I see that face. We can get into that but-
Sarah Shawesh: Keep deep breathing.
Vickie Brett: Yeah, and something that I was going to ask, because I’m sure parents have this debate all the time. Okay, there’s not state run preschools, I mean there are but in the context of like, okay so I’m going to do private. Am I doing private for the rest of my child’s life? Like that can’t be cheap, you know. I got afford college in the end. And those are hard decisions with we try to help parents, you know just give them as much information as we can because, I thought that that was a really unique perspective of like, all your kids are going to have needs. And I get it. There are special needs, we want to target them as early as possible because we’re all about early intervention and we know about this. And you know often times in the preschool setting, Amanda and I are arguing against that more restrictive environment, because these districts they’re like no, no, no. It’s fine. That’s where they’re going to get the most services. And we’re like, but the gen ed component, especially when academics are like nothing in preschool-
Amanda Selogie: Well yeah, the academic expectations in preschool are so low, that you know, even if the kid does fall behind, think of the benefit that they’re getting. I mean we talk about it a lot of the time. I say this to families all the time, that kids learn so much more from kids than adults. Just from what kids talk and they refer to them. And like schools think of, oh well good peer modeling only goes so far. No it goes a long way. It really does. And like when we look at … And I think you’re unique perspective in looking to the school that you work with is so important because, you know you could go in and work with these three, with this teacher on these three students. But what happens next year?
Sarah Shawesh: Absolutely.
Amanda Selogie: Those kids are gone. And then that teacher hasn’t learned how to help all the kids.
Sarah Shawesh: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Amanda Selogie: And how to anticipate, well okay next year when there is a kid with special needs, how do I affect them? Instead of them having to come back to you next year, right? Like we always say, we would love it for there to be a day where our job doesn’t exist, right? Wouldn’t that be a nice reality? That’s where we we should be going. Teachers should have the tools in their toolbox to effect change with any kid.
Sarah Shawesh: Absolutely.
Amanda Selogie: Right?
Sarah Shawesh: So I think that one of the … That kind of hits like on a plethora of things for me. But one of the things that really brings to light here, is that it’s not really my role as an educator for you to get a set of information from me. What it is for me and for parents is in that first five years of life, let’s give them a toolbox of things that they can take with them that they can apply to anything, right? That they can … It’s about teaching skills. It’s about teaching coping. It’s about teaching … Right? And that comes at a really explicit level. When we’re talking about that zero to five, they’re not abstract thinkers. They’re not going to critically connect things until they’re about five. Four or five depending on experiences. And so really I have to be explicit with them. I always … What comes to mid are examples that I’ve used recently. And so just last week I was telling a three-year-old, even in moments of anger you have to learn to control your hands, your fists, right? I’m not telling him like be happy, put your hands down, soft hands.
Vickie Brett: Or ignoring the … Yeah.
Sarah Shawesh: The skill there is that he understands that in moments of anger he has a hard time with impulse control. And so if I can teach the child that at three, I can teach his parents that at three, when he gets to second grade, that looks like a very different conversation for the parent to have with the teacher.
Amanda Selogie: Right.
Sarah Shawesh: Listen we’ve struggled with impulse control, especially in anger. Here is what we use with him. And then we reduce the chance that there will be a behavior problem in elementary school. But the parent has to take that information [crosstalk 00:17:06] them. Right? And so parents really play such an important role in their academic journey, right? But we rob them we don’t teach them about it in early childhood. When we don’t say too them, like your child is this type of learner. Your child really struggles with X, Y, and Z but is really strong in A, B, and C. Right? And so when we give them that kind of model, then they’re able to go to their future educators, and by the time they get to junior high or high school, hopefully the child’s had enough metacognition, enough meta awareness, that they’re able to say like, I hear the assignment. I understand the assignment but I’m this kind of learner. And so I have to do this to be able to accomplish it.
Vickie Brett: That’s such a great way of being able to compartmentalize what it is that we should be doing at the preschool level. Because so many people have it backwards right? No, you are the educator, you’re supposed to educate, my kid’s supposed to know all of this stuff. But being able to take a moment to step back and say no, these are tools that are life skills. And I always say this all the time. Well he didn’t learn it in the sandbox, right? And there’s certain things and mannerisms and you wait and everybody takes their turn to speak and things like that. And instead of just being like yes and no or no you can’t do that, no you can’t do this, being able to say like okay we’re recognizing we’re having a feeling. And just so many educators I think, miss that. Because of the … What society thinks that they should be doing. Because in law school, I think it was the first time that I had taken a test, like the program coordinator had said like okay everybody take this test before law school starts during orientation and I’ll tell you what type of learner you are. And it was like crazy, because it was … I mean at that point it was just-
Sarah Shawesh: That’s humorous.
Vickie Brett: Law school. And it was just like, oh I’m … I was like a mix. It was like I was kinetic and visual and like whatever. And so then no cards were very helpful to me in law school, and like during the bar more of like visual charts and things and I had other colleagues that were like super visual, like they had to take a bar prep course that was just all graphs. Which is crazy, because to me I would have been like this is terrifying. Like I can have some graphs and things but not every graph is going to be helpful to me, and not every, you know Venn diagram or whatever it is. But that was law school. What about, you know, I’m like what?
Amanda Selogie: Right. Well and I think that’s the component that I think is really important of giving parents this toolbox. And I remember when I was in college as a child development major, my emphasis was on education and I took a couple classes. One class in particular that we learned about education systems around the world. And I got really fascinated with how other countries do it. And I remember learning about certain systems within Asia that was very diverse and like some of their programs were very specific to … The kid from preschool to fifth grade had the exact same teacher. The entire time. And they would, they worked to create kind of a portfolio of who this child was, and it went with them. And that’s something that I have always said is missing from our education system. The fact that we do change teachers every single year, not necessarily is that problematic. But the fact that there’s not this … Right, we have the educational records but what’s in that file, if the kid is in general education? Nothing. Right? So where is the information of, I use this strategy and it worked. Or I used this and it didn’t work. Or this is … You know all this information that should be in that tool box, it’s so crazy that for how much research our country has on education, we haven’t figured out how to do that.
Sarah Shawesh: I think it’s really complex. Right? I think there are a lot of things that go into making a shift. And so I think that’s part of it is that, like we’re not talking about like a couple little tweaks.
Amanda Selogie: Right.
Sarah Shawesh: We’re talking about this huge shift. And one of the things … I have done both. I have done like year the year we get to pass right? I’ve worked from infancy to kindergarten as a Lead Teacher. And then I’ve done years where I got to loop up. And so by the end of that third year, if I wasn’t being honest with myself, there were some personalities that I was like, alright okay, you’re five, I am X, Y and Z years old, take a deep breath. I have self-regulation you don’t. So I think that it goes beyond that. And really for me it boils down to mental health of everyone. That’s a whole like spinoff. But, we have to teach children how to be mentally stable. We have to teach teachers how to be mentally stable. We have to teach parents how to be mentally stable, right? Because to stay in a relationship, an ongoing relationship with somebody, year in and year out becomes very challenging.
Amanda Selogie: Well I mean even just I think, in my suggestion, if we had that portfolio that tool box that went from teacher to teacher. Because like how often I mean, and I have a lot of friends that are teachers, and like they get like one day or two before school year start. They may have 30 students. There’s no way … And like they’re not given any information about these students. They get their name. Unless they have an IEP. And even if they have an IEP, a lot of times they don’t have time to like read through it. So they’re learning about the kids, and like how nice would it be to have like some kind of tool box. And maybe it’s a one pager. You know, all the highlights of what a new teacher would need to know about this child. Like so rather than we always get told, well we need to wait 30 days for the teacher to get to know the child before we can really start talking about how they’re doing. Well what if the teacher had something up front. Before we even started the school year, so they had an idea. And then they get started. Would that transition time be decreased? If we could develop a system like that?
Sarah Shawesh: Yeah that’s the power of giving parents information. Right? That when we look at time. Time is valuable. Even when we talk about early childhood. The context of early childhood is that we are a fast-moving field. And that if you are one to twelve, a one to eight teacher, that’s moving quick. And you don’t always have time to jot down this really valuable information. But giving it to a parent who can then give it to their future educators is really powerful. Or being a elementary teacher who requires the parents to say, do like an information sheet, right? Like this is my child’s name. These are the things we did over the summer. These are … Requiring them to engage in that way. Yes it makes more work for the educator. But there is value in knowing them from the get-go. Or for having information.
Amanda Selogie: Yeah, we also have to be careful that it’s not biased data, right? It’s not information that’s passed along that is subjective. And through my own lens of being worn out or burnt out or really enthusiastic. Maybe I’m a rose-colored lens person. Where I write like really flowery … I, one year, got these assessments from the previous teacher. Right? And it was like everybody was like roses and butterflies and beautiful things, and I was like, this feels unrealistic.
Sarah Shawesh: Right?
Amanda Selogie: This feels like I’m going to have the easiest smoothly sailing year ever, which was not the case. But she was so in love with this group of children that that’s how her notes sounded right? Where she let that subjectivity kind of drive her assessments.
Vickie Brett: And each teacher is different right? So you’re going to have a kid and, oh I love Johnny, he’s so great, bla, bla, bla. But that’s the history teacher that everything is visual. Because the science teacher is like really? Johnny’s a terror, I hate him. Like … Or not hate him, [crosstalk 00:24:19].
Amanda Selogie: Well I mean the rapport between the teacher and the child makes an impact.
Vickie Brett: And that as well. You’re not going to get along with every single person that you meet. And I had had that conversation with a family where they wanted to change … Or no, no, no. I was like well we can change the child’s you know classes around, and they were like he needs to learn that he’s not going to like everyone. And I don’t want to make this … And to me I was like whoa, this is the first time I’ve ever heard like … That’s just an idea I throw out, just because a lot of parents just would prefer to do that. And depending on the child’s needs. But this was a higher-functioning kiddo with autism. I was going to call him an aut kid. But with autism, and it was one of those situations where I thought it was really great that they were able to recognize, he’s not going to get along with everyone, you know. And so he’s going to have to figure it out. And I was like, whoa.
Amanda Selogie: Or he’s not going to like everything that he has to do. I mean we are fortunate enough to love what we do, but not everyone, you know … It would be great if everyone could. But the reality is, some people are going to do things … And not even just like in the job but like you have to you know, pay your bills. Not everyone likes paying your bills. Like there’s a lot of things … Because in school we’re preparing children to be part of the community.
Sarah Shawesh: Absolutely.
Amanda Selogie: And there’s going to be things in the community that you don’t like.
Vickie Brett: Remember when you had that one case where you were like yeah I know, he doesn’t know how to get on a bus, and then like they were like, no high school kid knows how to get on a bus. And we were like uh, but you could give him a map, and you could be like here’s the bus schedule, here’s the map, get down to the beach. And that typical 18 year old should be able to figure out how to do it or they’re just call themselves an Uber. But my kiddo here that has a disability needs the tools and you haven’t given him those tools.
Sarah Shawesh: I think that’s a really scary thing for me, especially in my experience with working, which is minimal with IEP’s. Is that sometimes the goals don’t make sense, right? Like I was working with a three year old who on his IEP was to memorize his address. I said well that doesn’t do anything if he doesn’t have the skills to find somebody to tell them his address, right? If we teach him his address and he memorizes this blanket information, wow that’s really impressive that your three year old can do that, but how do they know how to interact with another person?
Amanda Selogie: And they say oh that’s a safety goal. And it’s like well no, there’s actually more practical safety goals out there.
Sarah Shawesh: Absolutely. And so for me it’s that toolbox. It always goes back to that toolbox, that coping, that … What skills are we giving them to help them progress through life? Not just through their address and their phone number.
Vickie Brett: And it can start that early. I was reading an article where it was like look, kids aren’t running around like they were in the seventies and eighties on their bicycles making these decisions, taking these risks right? Everything is either monitored or they don’t have chores. Like your three year old can put their toys back. I know a lot of parents will be like no they can’t. But like what the article was saying essentially like you have to set those expectations because otherwise you’re just going to be picking up after the child.
Amanda Selogie: Yeah, the idea is to set high expectations that these kids can do it. One of my nieces will turn three later this year and she has a chore of feeding the dogs. And she loves it, and she does it. But at the end of the day like … And that’s one thing that we often fight with schools is if we don’t have high expectations for kids, they’re never going to succeed, right? Because if we have these low expectations then you know, it’s like putting a fish in a small pond, they’re never going to get bigger until you put them in a bigger pond. We need-
Sarah Shawesh: And then it’s scary.
Amanda Selogie: Yeah.
Sarah Shawesh: Yeah. I think for me it’s about boundaries. I spend a lot of time telling parents, we never want to set up a boundary that we plan on breaking. I usually … I spend so much of my life talking about potty training.
Vickie Brett: Well yeah that’s a big thing-
Sarah Shawesh: It’s a big thing in preschools, right? One we should be calling it self sufficiency in the bathroom. Because we don’t want to train children.
Vickie Brett: Love it. And potty’s kind of cutey, right?
Sarah Shawesh: You’re a real person. But one of the things that happens is that from a very young age the boundaries that it’s somebody else’s responsibility. And so I know we’ve used the word that age three, but a lot of these things start younger than that. A lot of these things start in infancy where we should be having conversations, even as an infant, about this tool box. About this self-regulation. About what it sounds like, feels like, to be angry. We have a set of primary emotions, that we know are either present at birth or start very close to birth.
Vickie Brett: Oh okay.
Sarah Shawesh: And so when we spend the first two years of life talking about happy, sad, glad, mad. We’ve done them a disservice. Because we know that they’re feeling things like pride, joy, shame. And then they have the secondary emotions like embarrassment, even as early as toddlerhood. And so we have to start talking about this coping this toolbox, in infancy. We have … I joke when I work in the infant room, when I go into the infant room, the first thing that a couple of them will do is socially reference their caregiver. What that means is they look at their caregiver to kind of get more information. Right? They start gathering information. And their caregivers will say things like Miss Sarah’s a safe person. She’s safe because she’s … Because I’m giving her this eye contact. You see how I let her close to me, and they’re giving this infant very clear details about why they attend to me being a safe person. Right? And as they get older, then we get the toddlerhood and our toddler room is like, hey Miss Sarah. Even this 12 month olds. They’re like hi, hug me, love me. Even though they don’t see me everyday. Right? And part of that is creating that tool box to say like oh this person has connections with this person, which I identify them as safe.
Vickie Brett: And that’s that non … Like when we say that a child is nonverbal, that’s one form. But it does not mean that they are not communicating at all. And that’s something with human behavior that that was a perfect example. Is it there’s so much information, I just kind of wanted to leave everybody with this as we’re winding down, you had mentioned also in your presentation, hey monkey see, monkey do. I mean you didn’t say that, but I’m saying that. I’m eating say that monkey see, monkey do. Like if you’re on that phone, and your kid is growing up zero to three, you know, seeing you on the phone all the time, guess what they’re going to want to do? They’re going to want to be on the phone all the time. You know, because this is our little, oh, let me Google that restaurant. Let me do this, let me do that. And that is that that behavior, that non-verbal or non-communicative … Because it’s just like … My dad used to say, or he still says it, do as I say, not as I do. And it’s like that doesn’t work. I’m going to do what I see you do. But he also says like don’t do anything I wouldn’t do, which leaves it wide open.
Amanda Selogie: Wide open.
Sarah Shawesh: Lots of things can be done.
Vickie Brett: But we are so happy that we had you on today. I know that seemed quick right? That was quick.
Sarah Shawesh: It goes by so quickly.
Vickie Brett: Look how much we talked about.
Amanda Selogie: Well, I mean I love the fact that you have so many hats, because that means we can have you back for so many different topics.
Sarah Shawesh: Yeah.
Amanda Selogie: Which is going to be great. But we’d love to end the episode with talking about like if you have either a success story or some kind of moment that really either changed the way that you see with the work you do or just a proud moment or something? There’s probably a lot.
Sarah Shawesh: There are so many, there are so many. I think for me it really boils down to when the children start to mimic the things that we’ve talked about. I had a pre K class one year who was just like the ideal … If I could ask for any generation of people to be like these 12 children, I would literally like I would … I had days where I was like I don’t want to go home on Friday because you’re really enjoyable people and I can remember one experience, this little girl, she was saying like oh sorry I wasn’t at school yesterday I went to the doctors. And I said oh what kind of doctor was he? And she like puts her hand up in the air and is like, she was a dentist. And I was like oh my gosh. She was like, you know women can be doctors. And I …
Amanda Selogie: I love that.
Sarah Shawesh: Exactly. And like, oh here I am spending all this time talking to them about like you know the ability to be anything regardless of things you can’t change. And she was like wait a second I caught you on it. And said that to me was like yes, I have made an impact here. I have made a difference in this group. And so those kind of things are really empowerful. When people start to use my own words against me. And I’m like success.
Vickie Brett: The student has become the teacher.
Sarah Shawesh: Exactly.
Vickie Brett: Well Sarah, thank you so much for joining us today, we hope you guys enjoyed it. The conversation and we will be in your ears next week.
Amanda Selogie: Talk to you later.
Vickie Brett: Bye.
Amanda Selogie: Bye.