News Archives - Page 2 of 21 - The Children's Guild

Sensory Rooms for Children with Disabilities

A sensory room is a safe space that has been specifically designed for someone with neurodevelopmental or psychiatric conditions, such as a learning disability, anxiety, ADHD, autism, behavioral challenges, or mood disorders, but anyone with sensory processing impairments can benefit from them. The Children’s Guild provides individualized experiences for all learning and emotional levels with in-house clinicians and social workers as well as sensory rooms in a few of our schools. 

Sensory rooms can include various stimuli that engage a person and help them manage stimulation. Everything usually is adjustable, and the room should be comfortable, dim, quiet, and secure so that the person can explore everything with a calm state of mind. 

Sensory rooms are designed as a soothing environment where people are encouraged to build their confidence and learn new skills. They are also a peaceful refuge to go to when someone is feeling overstimulated or experiencing heightened emotions. Generally, all sensory rooms offer soft lighting, textures, sounds, and color schemes. 

Sensory rooms  help children learn how to interact with the world surrounding them in a safe way that offers consistency and holds no risk. The child gets free range in the area at their leisure. This freedom allows the teacher, therapist, parent, or caregiver to observe what the child does and does not find calming or exciting.

What Are the Benefits of a Sensory Room? 

  1. Increases opportunities for socialization

Using a sensory room with others encourages the use of social skills in a safe, calm, and welcoming environment. Sensory rooms for disabled children may include cause-and-effect toys and games that promote turn-taking and interaction within the room.  

  1. Improves movement, sense of orientation, coordination, and balance

Sensory rooms help each child work on their gross and fine motor skills. These skills are essential because they help day-to-day living. For example, tying shoes allows them to change locations and dress independently. Sensory rooms are also beneficial for children with additional physical difficulties because they can help with muscle tone and relaxation.  

  1. Sharpens focus

Sensory toys and equipment are designed to help individuals concentrate on the activity they are engaged with. Every experience is accessible and soothing. This increases the child’s comfort, making it easier to stay focused. Concentration is essential for children to develop and cope with real-world situations. 

  1. Helps decompress and unwind

Sensory rooms provide children with a much-needed moment of relief and refuge in case of overstimulation. Additionally, because of the safe and controlled nature of the room, those that isolate may feel comfortable and soothed enough to engage with their surroundings. If a child feels overwhelming emotions or experiences challenging behavior, the sensory room helps to recenter and ground them. 

  1. Teaches through play

Many sensory rooms are designed with learning in mind, but parents and providers should also ensure fun is a priority. Sensory play aids children in developing their senses, problem-solving, and building nerve connections in the brain.

What to Keep in Mind When Building a Sensory Room at Home: 

  1. Location

It is highly recommended that the room be away from the busy, noisy areas of the house. Windows are unnecessary because they are mostly covered with blinds or films to control the atmosphere. If there are windows, using blackout curtains and blinds is helpful. 

  1. Size, Shape, Space

Plan out what you want to put in the room. Consider the size and shape of the room based on the toys, equipment, lighting, and specific needs of the children. Keep in mind having a little corner for pillows and blankets that can be designated as a mindfulness or meditation area is usually preferred. 

  1. Ventilation and Temperature

Make sure that the room is breathable. Having a well-ventilated room that is heated and cooled as needed helps the individual and caregiver focus on the experience at hand and not on the environmental features of the room. 

  1. Lighting and Sound

Avoid fluorescent light because it can emit an undesirable noise, which may increase stress in individuals. Soft, dimmable lights are typically a better choice for a sensory room. Sound insulation can help prevent unwanted noise. Sound insulation can be achieved by using various materials, thickening the walls, or even lining walls with sound-dampening materials. 

  1. Colors

Avoid overly bright or neon colors for walls, floors, or equipment. You can be a bit more colorful when it comes to lighting. Pick the color scheme based on the calm mood you want to convey, and you can also add in your child’s favorite colors around the room. 

  1. Floors

Select a floor coloring that can be used throughout the room. If you use wheelchairs in the room, select a durable floor where the wheelchair can move. Combine carpets and vinyl floors for tactile effects. Put a mat in the corner of the room and add lots of pillows for a lounging or mindfulness area. 

 

Sensory Rooms in Schools 

Does your child’s school have a sensory room set up? Would your young scholar benefit from time spent in this room? Let’s examine what makes a good sensory room for a school: 

  1. Safe and secure. The room should be safe and secure, with no hazardous objects or potential dangers for children. The room should be equipped with childproof locks to prevent children from leaving the room without adult supervision. 
  1. Sensory equipment. A variety of sensory equipment should be available, such as weighted blankets, sensory swings, trampolines, therapy balls, sensory tables, bubble tubes, tactile surfaces, and sound and light systems. This equipment should be age-appropriate and provide a range of sensory experiences. 
  1. Calming colors. The color scheme of the sensory room should be calming and soothing, with soft and neutral colors such as blue, green, and beige. Bright and contrasting colors can be overstimulating and may cause sensory overload. 
  1. Noise reduction. The room should be designed to reduce noise levels, with sound-absorbing materials, such as carpets, curtains, and acoustic panels. White-noise machines or calming music can also help to create a peaceful environment. 
  1. Visual stimulation. The room should have visual stimulation, such as calming images, pictures, or videos that can be projected on the wall. This can help students to focus and reduce stress.  
  1. Clear rules. Clear rules and guidelines should be established for the use of the sensory room. These should include expectations for behavior, length of stay, and adult supervision.  
  1. Regular maintenance. Regular maintenance of the sensory room is essential to ensure that all equipment is functioning correctly and the room is clean, safe, and comfortable for students. 
  1. Training for staff. Staff members should be trained in the use of the sensory room and how to support students with sensory processing difficulties. This can include strategies for managing challenging behaviors and identifying triggers for sensory overload.   

By providing a well-designed sensory room, schools can create a safe and calming environment that helps students with sensory processing difficulties regulate their emotions and improve their academic performance. Ask your school counselor if this is available for your child!  

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The Children’s Guild’s schools all offer sensory support for their students. The Children’s Guild maintains a staff of educators as well as physical and mental health providers committed to the growth of each child.See photos below of a sensory room from one of our schools in Baltimore, Transformation Academy! 

Understanding Neurodiversity in Children

What Does Being Neurodivergent Mean?

Neurodivergent is a term used to describe individuals whose brains process, learn, or behave differently from what is considered typical neurological development (neurotypical). Generally, neurotypical individuals move through life without having to wonder if their brain is functioning in a standard way. Being neurodivergent has both strengths and challenges. The challenges include learning disabilities and medical disorders, while the strengths include solving complex mathematical calculations without pen and paper, having a better memory than a neurotypical person, and so many more.

Of the world’s population, 15-20 percent exhibit some form of neurodivergence. It is believed that there are a variety of ways for the brain to work and the differences of each mind are embraced instead of being viewed as inadequacies. Neurodiversity recognizes that both brain function and behavioral traits are indicators of how varied humans are. Although the word refers to the diversity of all people, it is often used in the context of autism spectrum disorder, as well as other neurological or developmental conditions, such as ADHD or learning disabilities. About 1 in 6 (17%) children aged 3–17 years were diagnosed with a developmental disability, as reported by parents, during a study period of 2009-2017. These included autism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity.

Australian sociologist Judy Singer coined the term “neurodivergent” in 1998 to increase acceptance and inclusion of “neurological minorities.” No two brains are the same, so there is no definition of the normal capabilities of the human brain. People who are neurodivergent have differences in the way their brains work so they are seen as neuro-differences, not deficits, and are appreciated as a social category, similar to differences in ethnicity and gender. It is important to note that neurodivergence is not a medical term or condition. It is also different from a physical disability or mental illness, but it can be associated with them since those who are considered neurodivergent may need accommodations at home, work, or school.

Types and Signs

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): A broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication. Signs of autism usually appear by age 2 or 3, and some even earlier. About 1 in 36 children have been identified with ASD, according to estimates from the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. Autism is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups and is nearly 4 times more common among boys than among girls.

Signs:

  • Sensory Processing Difference: Hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity to stimuli, leading to heightened or diminished sensory responses. This can impact daily functioning and contribute to sensory overload or avoidance.
  • Social Communication Challenges: Difficulty interpreting or responding to social cues, understanding figurative language, or maintaining eye contact. This can affect social relationships.
  • Restricted and Repetitive Behaviors: Repeated patterns like hand flapping, rocking, and adherence to rigid routines are common. Comfort and predictability come from these actions, and changes in the environment can cause stress.

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): A neurodevelopmental condition characterized by persistent inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. ADHD symptoms start before age 12, and in some children, they’re noticeable as early as 3 years of age. The CDC suggests that around 9.4% of all children are diagnosed with ADHD at some point before the age of 18.

Signs:

  • Struggle to maintain attention, easily distracted, frequently shifting focus from one task to another.
  • Restlessness, fidgeting, difficulty engaging in quiet activities.
  • Difficulties in impulse control and decision-making and poor organization, time management, and planning skills. 

Dyslexia: A specific learning disorder that primarily affects reading skills. Dyslexia symptoms can appear as early as preschool age. According to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, dyslexia affects 20% of the population.

Signs:

  • Challenges with accurate and fluent reading. Individuals may struggle with word recognition, decoding, and reading comprehension.
  • Visual and auditory processing challenges, including difficulty distinguishing between similar letters or sounds, which leads to confusion and errors in reading and spelling.

General Signs of Neurodivergent Minds

  • Neurodivergent individuals may process information uniquely, displaying strengths in certain areas and challenges in others. They may exhibit enhanced or specialized intellectual abilities, allowing them to excel in specific areas.
  • Some neurodivergent individuals have heightened sensory perception or attention to detail. They may notice subtle patterns, textures, or sounds that others might overlook.
  • Neurodivergent individuals may exhibit intense focus and attention toward their areas of interest. They can become deeply immersed in specific tasks or subjects, displaying a remarkable ability to concentrate for extended periods of time.
  • Neurodivergent minds may experience emotional regulation challenges, including a struggle to express their emotions effectively. As a result, they might exhibit heightened emotional responses. 

How to Support a Loved One Who Is Neurodivergent

The first step to finding out if you, or someone you care for, are neurodivergent is to talk to your healthcare provider. They can refer you to a specialist or other providers who can determine if you have a medical disorder, condition, or other brain-related difference that might explain why your brain works differently.

Psychologists, psychiatrists, and neurologists are professionals commonly involved in diagnosing and assessing neurodivergent conditions. These specialists possess the expertise and knowledge to administer appropriate assessments, interpret the results, and provide comprehensive evaluations.

Since neurodiversity refers to the unique way that each person’s brain develops, it is not preventable, treatable, or curable but some of the conditions that cause a person to be neurodivergent are manageable. For some people, such as those with ADHD, behavioral therapy and medication can positively affect their quality of life. For others, therapy programs can help them “play to their strengths,” meaning they illustrate how to make the most out of your abilities. They can also show you how to adapt to challenges, minimizing their interference in your life.

Ways to Help Now:

  1. Providing sensory-friendly spaces by reducing noise levels, using soft lighting, or providing access to sensory tools like noise-canceling headphones or fidget toys. Also, allowing for sensory breaks if sensory overload occurs.
  2. Helping them with their social communication and interaction challenges by offering targeted social skills training programs on understanding nonverbal cues and maintaining conversations.
  3. Establishing predictable routines and visual schedules and breaking down complex tasks into smaller chunks.

Society has shifted greatly in the past few years in its understanding of the importance and diversity of how the brain operates. This means that the way in which we interact with those who are neurodivergent will also continue to improve and evolve. Another advancement has been in special education, with approaches becoming centered around how people with assorted neurodivergent tendencies learn best. The Children’s Guild schools and programs are committed to providing a supportive and nurturing environment for neurodiverse students. 

The Children’s Guild and Neurodiversity

The Children’s Guild (TCG) provides whole-child education and family services to empower children and families to thrive in their communities. We meet them where they are with tangible resources so they can experience more success. TCG oversees nonpublic, charter, and public schools, as well as programs for children at all different learning and emotional levels. Since its inception in 1953, The Children’s Guild operates schools serving students with significant behavioral and academic issues including emotional disturbance, autism across the spectrum, developmental disabilities, and any combination of those disabilities.

 

Special Education Teachers Get Pay Increase Thanks to TCG

The Children’s Guild senior team and staff don’t just take a backseat when it comes to implementing change. They get behind the wheel and become the change they wish to see. They not only advocate for the children, families and communities served, but also for the teachers and staff that work with them. 

An example of this was done earlier in the year by beloved TCG of Baltimore Principal Dr. Katina Webster. On January 27th, 2023, Dr. Webster testified before the Maryland Senate on Maryland Senate Bill 311. The bill pursues a pay increase for special education teachers. 

By July 1, 2023, the act took full effect. This means that nonpublic schools in Maryland will now provide its teachers a salary that is equivalent to the local, public schools salaries, phased in over 3 years beginning in fiscal year 2024 with parity achieved in the third year and parity maintained thereafter. “Local school salaries” means the salaries and bonuses received by public school teachers of similar training and experience to teachers at a special education placement nonpublic school in the same county in which the school is located.
Read the bill>> http://ow.ly/Ojt450MOcbY 

True transformation is a slow and steady process and takes time to unfold. Although there is always room for improvement, TCG continually takes steps to integrate the lessons we learn. We champion our communities and employees, so seeing what we work towards come to fruition is fulfilling. Being a small part of this big change was a win! 

Celebrating the Class of 2023!

The Children’s Guild recognized and celebrated the achievements of 400 remarkable students who are a part of nine education programs. The graduations, promotions, and passages not only mark a milestone for the students but also serve as a testament to the power of inclusive education and the potential within every individual.

This year witnessed a couple of firsts in the 70-year history of The Children’s Guild:

 

  • Transformation Academy held its first-ever graduation ceremony for the school, which opened in November 2021, with four students completing the program.
  • Nearly 100 Monarch Global Academy Laurel’s 8th-graders were the first students t
  • o have started as kindergarteners in 2008 when the school opened and attend all the way through 8th

“As we celebrate our 70th Anniversary, we are proud that The Children’s Guild has long been at the forefront of promoting inclusive education and embracing and supporting all learners that we serve including those that are extremely gifted, traditional learners, and those that have challenges,” said Jenny Livelli, President and CEO of The Children’s Guild.  “Our senior leadership team, staff, and faculty are committed to providing a supportive and nurturing environment for neurodiverse students, and watching these students graduate is a culmination of years of dedicated efforts by all involved and most importantly, the students themselves.”

TRANZED APPRENTICESHIPS NAMED AMBASSADOR BY US DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden Remarks on Apprenticeship Ambassador Initiative.

WASHINGTON (May 17, 2023) – The U.S. Department of Labor announced TranZed Apprenticeships is among 98 of the department’s latest additions to the 205 organizations already serving as Apprenticeship Ambassadors. Ambassador organizations help the department promote and support Registered Apprenticeship opportunities nationwide.

In November 2021, the department launched its Apprenticeship Ambassador Initiative with an inaugural cohort of over 200 Ambassadors. These ambassadors committed to promoting Registered Apprenticeships as a high-quality workforce development strategy to meet the needs of high-demand industries while expanding equitable opportunities for workers from historically underserved and underrepresented communities.

View the second cohort of Apprenticeship Ambassadors

Read about the Apprenticeship Ambassador initiative

Official DOL News Release

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TCG HEADQUARTERS MOVES TO DC!

WASHINGTON, DC January 30, 2023The Children’s Guild (TCG), founded in 1953 and celebrating its 70th anniversary, is a leading Mid-Atlantic nonprofit organization serving children, families, and child serving organizations dedicated to transforming the way children are cared for and educated has announced the move of their headquarters from Baltimore, MD to the NoMa district in Washington, DC.  The move will help to expand TCG’s educational programs, increase and leverage new partnerships with regional and national organizations with similar missions, grow opportunities with donors, be more centrally located to staff and families and bring vital, rewarding careers to the NoMa neighborhood.

The organization is focused on helping students and families find success socially, emotionally, educationally, and developmentally through special education and charter schools, school-based mental health services, treatment foster care, autism services, family mental and behavioral health services, and workforce development programs.

The Children’s Guild entered the Washington, DC market in 2015 when they opened the TCG DC Public Charter School at 2146 24th Place NE, Washington, DC 20018.  The school led by principal Bryan Daniels has 200+ students and 80 staff including 26 teachers and five social workers.  This unique and free DC public charter school serving grades K-8 has provided The Children’s Guild the opportunity to get more involved with the DC community.

“We are proud of our school in DC and excited to move our headquarters to the District to give our senior leadership and staff the ability to further our mission with direct access to partners, similar organizations, and donors,” said Jenny Livelli, President and CEO of The Children’s Guild.  “It’s an honor to further the vision set by the founders of the organization and 70 years later continue to expand our services to ensure more children have access to critical therapies and educational resources throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.”

The new headquarters will be located at 1200 1st Street NE, Washington, DC 20002 in the same space as Social Current, a network of more than 1,800 social service organizations.  “Social Current is excited to share this new space with The Children’s Guild, a partner in our work to advance policy and practice that creates an equitable society where all people can thrive,” noted Jody Levison-Johnson, President and CEO of Social Current. “It is collaborations like these that bring the social sector together and enhance our ability to improve population health and well-being as well as our effectiveness as a sector.”

Presently the headquarters of The Children’s Guild is in Baltimore, MD and shares the same building as TCG- Transformation Academy.  This 12-month, non-public day school for students ages 5-21, whose primary diagnosis is autism has been growing since it opened in November 2021.  With the corporate headquarters moving, the Transformation Academy will now be able to expand to serve more children who have co-existing diagnoses of sensory processing disorder, a specific learning disability, health impairment, or multiple disabilities.  The move will also provide available space for The Children’s Guild Outpatient Mental Health Clinic and the organization’s Treatment Foster Care program, to further expand into the administrative offices in Baltimore, MD.

“As our team prepares for our move to DC, we want to thank everyone in Baltimore for their incredible support throughout the decades.  While our headquarters are moving, our commitment to our Maryland-based schools and programs remains unwavering despite our change in zip code,” added Livelli.  “We’re not leaving Baltimore, in fact, we are actively negotiating with the City and working with Baltimore City Gov’t and Baltimore City Public Schools to expand our programming.”

Affiliates of The Children’s Guild include The Children’s Guild School of Baltimore, The Children’s Guild DC Public Charter School, The Children’s Guild School of Prince George’s County, Monarch Academy Glen Burnie, Monarch Global Academy Laurel, Monarch Academy Annapolis, Monarch Preschool College Park, The Children’s Guild- Transformation Academy, The Outpatient Mental Health Clinic, Treatment Foster Care, TranZed Academy for Working Students (TAWS), and TranZed Apprenticeships.  For more information, visit https://childrensguild.org/.

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