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A New Mindset

Viewing Challenges as Gifts

Challenges are gifts . . . but only if we’re open to receiving them that way.

Challenges are really just opportunities to learn. With that mindset, we embrace struggles rather than fear them.

What do I mean? Well, suppose a child has Tourette’s Syndrome, which is characterized by uncontrollable sounds (e.g. coughing) or movement (e.g. facial twitching) which are called tics.

Okay, you may be thinking: What could possibly be the upside of that? After all, kids are just going to make fun of that child.

And you’re correct . . . there’s a high probability that child will be ridiculed at one time or another.

But while we can’t control whether our child has tics or how others treat him when they appear, we do have the power in how we teach our child to respond—and how we then respond, in kind. Those are the gifts that are waiting to be unwrapped.

For example, if our child has Tourette’s Syndrome, we can teach him to answer in a way that empowers him and leaves no room for feeling like a victim. Such a response might be, “My twitches are just a tiny, tiny part of all of me. How can I help you see all the rest of me?”

We can teach our child to appreciate and value friends who see beyond a physical impairment.

We can create opportunities where our child befriends another child with a different kind of disability, giving our child the chance to be the one who models recognizing and honoring the core of that person.

We can teach our child that another person can only hurt us to the degree that we allow.

We can model an attitude that reflects a sincere belief that challenges are opportunities to learn, reflect, and build character. Consider how that greatly contrasts with our modeling endless worry over how our child is going to feel if the dreaded scenario ever happens.

In short, worrying only amplifies a feeling of helplessness. If it actually influenced a positive outcome, then sure, we should worry all day long. But it doesn’t. It just creates more angst. In fact, the movie star Michael J. Fox says he never worries for one main reason: If the bad “thing” eventually happened, then he will have lived through whatever he dreaded twice.

So, yes, there are going to be challenges in all of our lives. Count on it. But when such struggles arrive on our doorstep, why not teach our children to ask: What gifts are wrapped inside this challenge?

This article was found on Brain Highway’s blog ( called, “The Cortex Parent”.

The ESLRs: Part 3 of 4

Welcome to a 4-part series on Pathway’s ESLRs. To start from the beginning, please see previous blog posts on ESLRs 1 and 2.

The third ESLR is as follows:

#3 A Pathway student is an effective communicator when speaking, listening, writing, and reading

Here at Pathway we strive to teach our students to be great communicators. However, much of the time children come through our doors having great difficulty in this area for one reason or another. I will unpack the four areas of communication by sharing some of the creative/helpful strategies we employ to help students grow in the area of communication.


microphoneWe provide ample opportunity for students to speak to small groups and larger groups. Students share their gifts and hobbies during Talent Share, a recitation during Speech Meet, and dramatic lines during our annual Spring Musical. Eighth graders give speeches at graduation, and many students are invited to share their experience at Pathway to prospective parents during certain times of the year. Each class plans and gives a chapel to the school once during the year. Various reports are assigned within the classrooms that give students other opportunities to communicate through speaking. Students receive individual feedback and guidance throughout most of these experiences that have been mentioned above.


headphonesWe believe that listening aids in comprehension, so much of our listening practice is related to the area of reading. We use audio books to allow students to hear what good readers sound like, and we employ questioning strategies to ensure students hear what is being said. We also support the understanding that young children need frequent breaks, so these are given to help support the best listening possible. Teachers ensure that students are listening by having them repeat back directions or key phrases. This also allows students to be an active part of lecture-type teaching.


pencilsPathway is always striving to have the most effective writing programs in place to encourage and teach children to become more independent, confident writers. Writing class involves the use of Thinking Maps, a specific graphic organizer program that is used across all subject areas at Pathway. Students learn how to create powerful sentences and variety in their writing. We expose students to narrative, persuasive, expository, response to literature, and informational types of writing over the course of a Pathway education. Students learn how to brainstorm, write a rough draft, edit, and finally generate a final draft. As mentioned in the Speaking portion of this post, eighth graders write a speech to be given at their graduation in June. Pathway staff regularly sees students begin at Pathway, unable to write a few sentences, and exit, having the ability to compose pages of material!


booksStudents are assessed individually,three times a year on fluency and comprehension. This gives our teachers the ability to have students reading books that are “just right” for them. Many other programs are employed for students who fall below grade level in either fluency or comprehension. Students read independently and practice comprehension methods on a daily basis. Twice a week students meet in groups with others at their level and read/discuss a book together. During this time students focus on different genres, a variety of literary components (climax, plot, characters, etc.), and oral reading. We have had many students say that they used to hate reading, but now they are beginning to enjoy it because it doesn’t feel as hard anymore.

Being able to communicate is a valued asset in today’s world. We are working hard to prepare our students to be superb communicators!


The ESLRs: Part 2 of 4

Welcome to part 2 of our 4 part ESLR series. The goal is to explain what our ESLRs mean so you can better understand how they shape our school.

#2 A Pathway student is a biblical truth seeker growing in understanding of God, His Son, and the Holy Spirit.

bibleIn southern Orange County, there are quite a few “Christian” schools. Pathway is lumped into that category, but there are a few things about Pathway that I would consider unique in comparison to other schools:

  1. Pathway’s teachers are committed to helping students along their journey of knowing who God is, why Jesus came, what it means to be a Christian and how to live out a life devoted to Christ.
  2. Bible is not just taught as a “history” class, but we teach kids how to study the Bible and why it is reliable, how to communicate with others about Christianity and defend the truth, and how to discover meaning and practical applications.
  3. The biblical truths that are found in God’s Word are applied to everyday life situations that we witness in students’ lives while at school or in discussion about their social experiences.

The Pathway staff’s prayer is that all students will experience and respond to Jesus’s love for them, and will grow into understanding that God created them to be just the way they are, and that His plan is perfect. We strive to always be available to answer questions or give guidance to students when they seek it, using the Bible as our guide and ultimate authority.

The ESLRs: Part 1 of 4

What are ESLRs Anyway?

ESLRs stand for “Expected Schoolwide Learning Results”, which is a component of our affiliation with WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges). Each week I plan to unpack one ESLR at a time, explaining what it means and how Pathway is working to meet the standards that are set.

#1 A Pathway student understands his/her unique learning style

We believe that God has created us all individually, thus it would make sense that we would also learn differently. It is our goal at Pathway to unpack the strengths and weaknesses of each student, and not only help them learn what those are, but to also equip them with a “toolbox” of strategies that they need in order to learn most effectively.

ear eye kinesthetic

Learning styles can be generalized into three categories: Auditory, Visual, and Kinesthetic. Auditory learners are those that can simply listen to a lecture and glean a majority of the information. Auditory learners may be distracted by background music during studying time. They also may be those students who struggle with giving eye contact during a conversation, but can recall what you said at any moment. Visual learners benefit from charts and graphs. They prefer pictures in books and do best when they are able to see a lesson unfold on a whiteboard, versus simply listening to a lecture. It is extremely important for a visual learner to watch the speaker. Kinesthetic learners need to move around. They are better memorizers when they can pace or walk around while working. Kinesthetic learners may prefer to stand while writing or sit on an exercise ball.

If you’re curious about your learning style, check out this quiz.

How do we enlighten Pathway students about their learning styles? We discuss them on a routine basis. We provide multiple ways to study, learn, and show that we understand concepts. For example, one student may draw the answer to a question, where another may tell us orally. Some students need to pace the hall when working on multiplication tables, where others may need to learn a song. The goal is to encourage students to be able to communicate their needs in any classroom setting, thus setting them up for maximum success!

Talk with your student about his/her learning style. Ask if there are any strategies he/she has learned that are helping with learning!

Pathway’s Makeover!

Over the summer, we’ve been working hard to make Pathway’s physical appearance match the amazing happenings that go on every year in the lives of our students! We’ve been repainted (beautiful, deep blue doors and accents and fresh white, everywhere!) and there’s some great signage! Last year we began a new program called PBIS – Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. The students are getting clear instruction on what is expected in all areas of the school. This past week the teachers took on the task of showing skits, Keynote presentations, songs, and other original works to instruct the students on model behavior.


Starting this year, each week several students will be nominated as star students in the areas of Respect, Responsibility, and Ready to Learn. Out of those nominated students, once a month one will be awarded with Student of the Month and have his/her picture featured in a special spot on campus!


There are reminders around the school to help students remember what the expectations are for each area used at school.


We’ve also finalized our awesome Conqueror mascot and you’ll see it everywhere!


The most inspiring piece – a beautiful wall mural – the first thing you see when you walk up the stairs. It captures much of the essence of Pathway: unlocking students’ potential and teaching them to love the Lord. Pathway is such an exciting place to be right now!


If you haven’t seen our new look – come by and check it out!

The Battle Doesn’t Have to Begin in September!

Morning Routines for ADHD Children: Rise and Shine for School

Many ADHD children need organization and motivation advice for waking up and getting out the door in the morning. Here’s how parents can help.


by John Taylor, Ph.D.

The morning routine can be managed with some simple tips for getting up and out the door.

The alarm rings. Your child hops happily out of bed. After brushing her teeth, she heads for the closet and picks out something appropriate for the season. Before her first mouthful of cornflakes, she checks her backpack to make sure that she’s got all of her homework. Then she heads to the school bus with five minutes to spare.

OK. So it’s you who’s dreaming.

More likely, your morning begins with you trying to rouse your child, who wants nothing more than to be left alone. Fifteen minutes later, when you stop by her room to call her to breakfast, you find her absorbed in a game, half-dressed. And once she’s seated at the table, she balks at what you’re offering for breakfast.

Launching the day can be stressful for any parent, particularly for those of us whose ADHD children need time to get going or who are easily sidetracked. Try these ideas for starting the day on a better note.

Long Term Planning
Establish and review the morning routine.

Together with your child, create a chart that details the sequence in which each morning activity should take place. Help her get into the habit of referring to the chart every day. (For pre-readers, use pictures to denote activities, such as a toothpaste advertisement clipped from a magazine to represent teeth-brushing time.) Or have your child make a tape recording in which he reminds himself what to do and when to do it. No more being nagged by Mom or Dad!

The Night Before
Plan for an early bedtime.

Catching enough Zzzs is essential for ADDers. Start your evening routine early enough for your child to get the 10 hours of sack time he needs to wake up physically and mentally refreshed.

Have your child take his bath or shower before bedtime, when time isn’t so precious and it’s less likely that someone else will need the bathroom. He’ll sleep better and there will be one less rushed item — and less conflict — in the morning.

Provide a protein-rich bedtime snack.

Tryptophan, the protein that occurs in milk, turkey, and chicken, is a natural sleep inducer. But just about any protein-rich snack about 30 minutes before bedtime is an efficient get-to-sleep aid. Try oatmeal, whole-wheat cereal, an egg, some meat or fish, cheese, or pumpkin or sunflower seeds.

Make decisions at night.

Choose clothes for school the night before. Also set breakfast and lunch menus to avoid discussions about them in the morning.

Pack the sack.

Finally, place your child’s papers and books inside his backback — and leave it near, or even blocking, the front door, where it can’t be left behind.

Waking Up
Invest in a good alarm clock.

You’ll probably need one that will wake the dead. (See Moms Rate the Best Alarm Clocks for a sampling of models.) Or make the most of the alarm you’ve got by setting it on a metal pie pan with dimes in it and placing it just out of arm’s reach.

Gently awaken with a touch.

Many kids with ADD are extremely sensitive to touch. Try gently wiping a cool, damp washcloth over your sleepy kid’s brow and cheeks while whispering a morning greeting. This routine should be agreed to ahead of time to avoid overstimulating him.

Let light into the room.

If it’s naturally dark outside at night, leave the bedroom curtains parted to allow natural light to prod your child into wakefulness in the morning. Or install a dimmer switch and turn up the light gradually on dark mornings.

Consider pre-wakeup meds.

If your child takes ADHD medication, ask his doctor about giving him a minimal dose of short-acting (not timed-release) meds 30 minutes before the alarm is set to ring and then letting him rest until wakeup time. This small amount of medication should supplement, not replace, the prescribed morning dosage.

Getting from Bed to Door
Enjoy breakfast.

Eating breakfast together is great, except when it isn’t. If your child makes war at the table, or just has trouble sitting down and eating, let him enjoy his meal in his room as he dresses. Or give him breakfast to go in the form of a piece of fruit, a chunk of cheese, and a breakfast bar. Do what works and forget the “shoulds.”

Reward your child for a good morning.

Let your child add a sticker to his chart or a token to his jar for getting out the door with a minimum of fuss.

1047This article comes from the August/September issue of ADDitude.


All About Amber!

This week’s blog post will feature a current Pathway student. Amber has earned enough Gotchas (students are rewarded these for outstanding behavior) to buy the privilege of being interviewed for our school blog. Without further ado…Amber!

What’s your favorite color?

I have a lot of favorite colors, actually – neon green, light blue, lavender, and pink

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

I would travel to Germany because my uncle lives there and I want to see him.


What’s the best thing about Pathway?

The classes are small and if you have a problem, the teachers understand and help you.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Hmmm…probably an artist or I would like to own my own restaurant.


Is there anything you’re scared of?

Big spiders – I was traumatized about a year ago when I was sleeping and woke up to see a spider crawling on my foot!


Favorite Bible story/verse?

I like Adam and Eve.

If you could change your name, what would it be and why?

I like my name already but if I could change it, I would change it to Emily because I don’t look like an Emily at all!

Favorite school subject?

math or art


Favorite thing to do in your free time?

Draw – I like to draw things that I see in the world.

What’s your favorite animal?

Birds and cats of all kinds.


Favorite food/restaurant?

I like Chick-fil-a!


Favorite dessert?

Sugar free cookies


Something most people don’t know about you?

I’m part French, part Irish, and part German

Favorite game?



If you were stranded on an island and only had 3 items with you, what would you want to have?

A pocket knife, an iPhone so I can call somebody, and food


Favorite holiday/season?

Christmas and winter


Amber, you’re a very interesting and fun person! It was fabulous interviewing you. Great job persevering and making good choices so you could earn enough Gotchas to be interviewed for our blog.

Stay tuned to see if another student takes the plunge!

Pathway’s 2013 Spring Banquet – a Brief Photo Montage

May 4, 2013 marked a special evening as we celebrated Pathway’s 10th Anniversary (2012-2013 year) at the Pathway of Hope Banquet. Below is a small collection of photos – for reminiscing if you were there, to informing if you weren’t, and to motivate you all to attend next year!

It was a lovely event – thanks to all who contributed to making it a success! Here’s to the next 10 years!

Looking for Educational Games?

2013 On For Learning Award Winners

Common Sense Media’s ON for Learning Award is given to the very best in kids’ digital media. We are excited to recognize the just over 50 apps, games, and websites that received our highest rating for learning potential.

Click here to see what products received the highest ratings!

Don’t Be an Enabler!

ADHD, LDs, ODD? How to Stop Doing Too Much for Your Special Needs Kid

by Anna Stewart, Family Advocate

02262013_article“If I didn’t put his homework in his folder, put the folder in his backpack and ask the teacher to get him to take it out, he would never turn in any homework,” says a mother of a son with ADHD.

“I have to sit right with her to get her to do her homework. It takes hours and by the time it’s over we can barely stand each other,” says a father of a teen with learning disabilities.

The shadow side of helping too much becomes more apparent in the middle and high school years, and often becomes an even bigger problem in college and into adulthood.

If you are nodding, crying or smiling, you know this role. These parents are literally stepping into their child’s brain and performing the executive functioning skills their son or daughter struggles to do on their own.

It all starts out of clear and defined need; young children need adults to teach them how to plan, prioritize, and manage time and multi-step projects or actions. Toddlers know that they put on their pajamas and brush their teeth before they get in bed. Preschools are set up for young minds who have short attention spans and can only hold a couple of behavioral rules at a time (walk, don’t run, hands to ourselves, indoor voices). As they move into elementary school the expectations also rise. Children are expected to remember more rules for different settings (what you can do on the playground is different than what you can do during math time) as well as follow multi-step direction, control their impulsivity and one of the big ones—completing work tasks on time and correctly. And at home, they are expected to start participating in household chores, and get themselves ready to go to school.

Related: Doing too much for your ADHD or ADD child?

Parents intuitively know that they need to put breakables up high when their baby starts crawling. They know they need to block the stairs and keep the back door shut. Without consciously thinking about it, parents masterfully step into the role of their child’s brain, specifically the frontal lobe which houses the executive skills functions. Most of the time, this process naturally and gently moves from the parent’s domain to the child’s. It’s what kids are supposed to do. They start insisting they will “do it myself” thereby giving parents a clear signal it’s time to back-off and let them learn to do it themselves.

02262013_sidebarBut what about the children whose brain is wired differently? Kids whose frontal lobe functions are immature and underdeveloped such as in a child who has ADHD or ADD, an autism spectrum disorder, mental health issues, or medical issues? Those children need external help to stay functional, keep their room clean, track their belongings, get along with siblings, deal with changes in routine, get ready to go to school and complete homework. And guess who gets that job?

Related: Does your child disrespect you and take you for granted?

Parents can’t wait, teach and process for everything their child needs executive functioning support for, so they take over as much as they can –for everyone’s sanity. Unfortunately this life-saving method will become a habit and that’s when it can become dysfunctional. When children are young, it usually doesn’t look like anything but attentive parenting. The shadow side of helping too much becomes more apparent in the middle and high school years and often becomes an even bigger problem in college and into adulthood. Outside demands keep increasing; teachers expect students to be able to juggle multiple classes and assignments and have a basic handle on organization, time awareness, ability to prioritize and the perseverance to get the work and activities completed. At the same time, adult support decreases and students are left on their own to make it all work. Changing habits is hard work and the first step is seeing what needs to be changed.

How do you know if you are “doing too much”?

  1. You automatically pack up for your child before school or practice or a trip.
  2. You speak before you think – such as giving them a reminder they need to start on homework or unload the dishwasher or any daily task without waiting to see if they can do it on their own.
  3. You constantly come to the rescue and run to school to bring the lunchbox or homework or soccer shoes left behind.

Parents don’t want to see their beloved children struggle, make mistakes or fail. But the time comes when parents must step back, look at the habits they have created and use their own executive functioning skills to make a new plan – one that will help their son or daughter train their own brain.

Related: Is your child learning how to be helpless? How to stop over-functioning for him.

Here’s a scenario that might sound familiar: Sara started to see that her own behavior was interfering with her 10-year-old son Dylan’s development when her sister Jennie visited and watched Sara do all the thinking and planning for both Dylan and herself. Sara was running around the house getting packed for a ski day and that included getting all of Dylan’s stuff, too. He played video games while she was organizing.

“Why are you getting everyone’s stuff?” her sister Jennie asked.

“I have to. Dylan would forget something like his gloves and that would ruin things for all of us,” Sara quickly replied.

“But why do you have to do it?” her sister pushed. “Can’t you give him a checklist or make a video of what he needs or just ask him to get one thing at a time? You don’t actually have to do this for him. How will he ever learn to do it himself?”

Sara stopped, ski pants draped over her arm. She knew that Jennie was right but she had no idea how to go from doing all her son’s planning to teach him to do it himself. She had made it so easy for Dylan; he didn’t even try to help. He got the message that he ‘couldn’t’ do it right so he didn’t need to do it at all.

Jennie, being the observer, could see that this dynamic wasn’t good for anyone, especially Dylan. She also knew that parents can’t go from doing it all to doing nothing. That was a set-up for failure.

And though she had some good suggestions, both Sara and Dylan needed to take a step back in order for Dylan to know how to get from where he was to where he wanted and needed to be.

They needed to do 3 things to get him on the path to organizing himself.
Start at the end.

That means that in order to use a checklist, Dylan needed to know what it would look like when he was ready to ski. He needed a picture of what ‘ready’ looked like. Parents can literally take a photo of what ready for school, ready to ski, ready to play baseball looks like (take a picture when he is ready and use that as his reference). Then you can ask him, what do you need to get or do to get to the end point?

Tip: Before starting to pack, stop and ask Dylan to imagine himself at noon in the slopes, what will he look like, be wearing, etc.

Estimating time.

Just because a child can tell you what time it is does not mean they understand how long 15 minutes feels like. Practice time sense in small ways by first estimating how long Dylan thinks it will take to get ready to ski. Let’s say he says 15 minutes. Set a timer for 5, 10 and 15 minutes. Use each checkpoint to see how far along he is as a method of feedback and encouragement, not to show him how inept he is at using his time.

Tip: Make sure you have an analog wall clock where you can see the minutes actually move.

Organize by category.

Checklists don’t usually work for people with executive functioning deficits. They don’t make any sense. Instead of a list, try organizing by category and use pictures to provide visual prompts. For instance, Dylan can pack for baseball practice by using three categories—equipment, clothing and snacks. He can take a picture what is needed in each category and then put it into his ‘baseball’ bag.

Tip: Put the picture on a luggage tag attached to the bag.

It is never too late to change the terms of engagement with your child or teen. It is natural to do less as children grow. Even kids who seem lazy and unmotivated can change when parents change their role in the relationship. When adults can give their children real, practical tools along with a clear and voiced belief that the child can learn, everyone benefits. Today, Dylan packed up his ski gear; tomorrow, he will learn what he needs to be ready for school, without Sara doing it for him. Then they can celebrate together.

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