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From deep breaths to packed binders: What we learned this season

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In this bonus episode, Rachel Bozek and Gretchen Vierstra share a few of their favorite moments from Season 4. From self-advocacy at IEP meetings to our kids’ social lives, we covered a lot of ground this season. 

Tune in to hear which topics the hosts are still thinking about — including why there’s no shame in bringing a five-inch binder to your next parent-teacher conference. 

Related resources 

Episode transcript

Gretchen: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "In It." I'm Gretchen Vierstra, a former classroom teacher and an editor here at Understood.

Rachel: And I'm Rachel Bozek, a writer and editor raising two kids with ADHD. We're between seasons right now, just taking a little time to rest and also to plan for all the great new episodes we'll start sharing with you in the fall.

Gretchen: In the meantime, though, we do not want to leave you in the lurch. So we'll be dropping in some bonus content here in there.

Rachel: Today, we're sharing a few of the moments from this past season that have really stayed with us. Maybe they resonated with you.

Gretchen: Or maybe they're from an episode you missed. In which case, now is a great time to go back and listen. As always, we'll have links to all of them in the show notes. So, Rachel, want to start us off?

Rachel: Sure. So the first moment I want to share comes from our conversation with Melody Maitland on how to empower our kids and teach them to self-advocate, especially when it comes to IEP and 504 meetings.

Melody: The first thing to know about advocacy is it's very individualized. So I always start with self-awareness. Does the student I'm working with know their interests, their needs, their strengths, their challenge areas? Do they know what a 504 plan or an IEP is? Do they know what they have that plan for — their diagnosis, their differing ability, disability, whatever we call it? And really just engaging in those conversations, because there tends to be this culture of nicety, like we don't want to tell them because we don't want them to feel bad.

But in doing so, we create more stigma by not talking about it, right? That silence speaks volumes about how we view differing abilities. So it starts with that self-awareness. And then really comes that communication piece in supporting them and being able to communicate those needs and strengths and challenge areas.

Rachel: So the reason I picked that quote is that I really appreciated Melody's acknowledgment of the importance of a kid being part of this conversation. And I realized while she was telling us about that, that that's not really something I've been doing a lot of. Which is probably the case for a lot of parents. And so I've found it really helpful now, as I've had to look at what's coming for each of my kids' 504s. And it helps me be able to consider including them in the conversation if that's something that they want to do.

Gretchen: Yeah, I think that episode that you picked also relates to our more recent episode on getting kids ready for college and real life. And so this idea of teaching our kids early to be self-advocates and to talk about themselves at meetings like that is really important.

Rachel: Yeah.

Gretchen: So then do you have another favorite pick from this year, Rachel?

Rachel: I do. So my second pick is from a conversation we had with Brendan Hodnett on some of the challenges that come up with kids who struggle with math. I was really interested in the distinction between dyscalculia, which is more of a learning difference related to math, and math anxiety, where a student may understand mathematical concepts, but anxiety prevents them from being able to do those operations under pressure, say for an exam or something.

And Brendan ended up sharing with us a very simple strategy for decreasing that anxiety. It's a physiological sigh. And needless to say, it can be used in so many different situations and absolutely does not only apply to math anxiety.

Brendan: You know what a physiological sigh is? You ever heard of that before?

Rachel: No, but I think I'm about to do one.

Brendan: Yeah, we're all going to do one. This one is great. So when you when you're starting to feel really anxious and this would work, you know, in any particular situation. But I have my students do this when I can tell the anxiety level is high and I need them to just kind of calm down. Sometimes the energy's just really high and I need the room to just settle.

And what we do is you want to take an inhale in almost to the point of a full capacity. Pause for a second, and then a second inhale — like a quicker one. And then once you've done that, then you let it out slowly. All right? So it's like a full, you know, almost a full inhale, then a little bit more, and then let it out. And really just two of those, you automatically just feel your body, just go....

Rachel: Yeah. So, yeah, I really loved this. Like while it was happening, when we were talking with him, I was like, this is going to be one of my favorite moments from this season. And it totally was. And it's actually a thing that I have used and done a couple of times. Even though I don't have math exams anymore. I'm kind of feeling like maybe we should do one right now.

Gretchen: I think we should.

Rachel: OK. I feel so much better. How are you feeling?

Gretchen: Good. Good.

Rachel: All right. So, Gretchen. Now that we're very relaxed, what are a couple of your most memorable moments from the season?

Gretchen: So my first pick is from an episode we did on the social lives of our kids, where we got into how to differentiate between social isolation that may require some help from us, versus social isolation that is just an expression of who our kid is. We were talking to a mom named Ellen about her son. And something she said I think could apply to a lot of us. And that was that our kids can be different from us and may need different things than we did when we were their age.

Ellen: Just this last weekend was homecoming. And I asked about homecoming, and he looked at me like I was crazy. Like, why would I want to do that? It was like, have you ever met me? No, that's not my scene.

You have these ideas of how your children are going to be and what they're going to be like. And they have their own ideas about what they're going to be. And that's really hard in some ways. And in other ways, you know, it means they're comfortable. And one of the things that has really helped is seeing how comfortable he is in his own skin.

Gretchen: So why I picked this is because I have two kids, one in middle, one in high school. And they're so different from each other. One is more social than the other. And I was probably more social than both of them are. And so sometimes I have to keep myself in check and say, this is who they are and they're happy. And as long as I'm aware of anything that might be going on with social media or other woes that can affect teens, as long as I'm checking in, it's OK. So I just really loved that Ellen brought this to light for us to think about.

Rachel: Yeah, that's a really good one. Do you have another one?

Gretchen: Yes. And I apologize because this clip comes from a conversation we had about parent-teacher conferences. And honestly, I know — who wants to think about that in the middle of summer? But this was a really great conversation with DeJunne' Clarke Jackson, all about how to make the most of these meetings. And as an overpreparer myself, one thing I appreciated is what DeJunne' had to say about how she prepares as a mom to a child with dyslexia and ADHD.

DeJunne': I am known as the Five-Inch Binder Mom. And I wear that badge proudly. I have in my binder my son's history all throughout his schooling, all his evaluations, parent-teacher conference notes, his test scores. So all of those things. When I'm having a conversation with a teacher about his progress, those things are important to bring to the table. That conversation is rooted in that information. And so you should absolutely prepare.

How much you prepare for, you know, it's individualized, depends on, you know, where your child is, especially if a child doesn't have any — my youngest is 8. And we have been very fortunate to not have our hands on him as much as my oldest. And so my parent-teacher conferences with his teachers look different. And I show up to those meetings with barely a thing in hand. And I'm just there to mostly listen.

Gretchen: You're the One-Inch Binder Mom for those briefings, or half an inch.

DeJunne': I can say I'm the Spiral Notebook Mom for those.

Gretchen: So why did I pick this clip? Well, it's because as parents, we care. And I love that she just made it OK to show that we care.

Rachel: I enjoyed that conversation, too. And I remember feeling like, oh, you know, you don't have to apologize for walking in with a long list of questions, or, you know, what some people might call overprepared. Like, that's OK. And I think at the end of the day, teachers appreciate it.

Gretchen: Totally.

Rachel: OK, So there you have it. As we said before, we have links to each of these episodes. And we'll drop them in the show notes so you can go back and listen if you'd like.

Gretchen: We'll be back in a couple of weeks with some summer reading recommendations for and about kids who learn and think differently.

Rachel: Till then, we hope you're having a great summer and thanks for listening. And thanks for always being in it with us.

Hosts

  • Gretchen Vierstra, MA

    is the managing editor at Understood and co-host of the “In It” podcast. She’s a former educator with experience teaching and designing programs in schools, organizations, and online learning spaces.

    • Rachel Bozek

      is co-host of the “In It” podcast and the parent of two kids with ADHD. She has a background in writing and editing content for kids and parents. 

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