Allow Me to Re-Introduce Myself

I started this blog as part of the initial set-up for the launch of my consulting career. It was 2019, and the world was a much different place back then. Fast forward to our current time, and I am now refocusing my efforts on building my consulting practice and creating a foundation for growth as 2021 is coming to an end.

When I first began planning for exactly what type of consulting services I wanted to provide, I will admit that I struggled to put together my “elevator pitch.” You might have heard of that reference before – and if we end up working together it is a term that you will definitely become familiar with and have an opportunity to apply to your own life. For those of you unfamiliar with the phrase, an elevator pitch or speech is about a thirty second statement that outlines your concept, company, or services you provide in such a way that the listener understands and ideally desires to then learn more about said concept, company, or services. At my first networking event as a consultant, I was less than stellar. I looked the part and had the business cards to pass out, but I struggled to put together an engaging elevator pitch that would open the door for further opportunities. Shortly after that initial event though, the world shut down in an unprecedented way. Once that happened, pursuing my consulting business was at the bottom of my priority list as my focus turned to adjusting to a new normal, keeping loved ones close, staying healthy and safe, and just managing day to day responsibilities in a world that was not making a lot of sense. I believe though, that the time I have spent away from actively building Kimberly Frey Consulting has actually made me more able to understand what services I want to provide and how I want to help my community.

I have been in the teaching profession for twenty years, and I worked with youth in various settings prior to that. The majority of my career has been spent in special education; teaching students with Individualized Education Plans that are designed to help them be as successful as possible in school and have access to an equitable education. During this time, the majority of my students have been those with learning disabilities, emotional/behavioral disabilities, mental illnesses, and/or on the autism spectrum. When people outside of the special education field think of individuals with disabilities, they often picture students with physical or cognitive disabilities and lack an awareness of how other disabilities can impact a person’s life in both school and beyond. After having time to thoroughly assess what I wanted to offer others, I realized that success in the “beyond” years of life was exactly where I wanted to focus. The students I have been working with for over two decades are adults now, and they are navigating their post-secondary lives. College, careers, relationships, self-care and more – these are all areas where many adults still need guidance and support. A common sentiment shared by so many today is that, “Adulting is hard.” As a consultant, my goal is to make it a little easier. Additionally, I want to support adults who are now navigating their own children’s educational needs, as the special education system can be difficult to understand. Lastly, as my former students are making their way in the workplace and business world, I want to ensure that their employers understand that ADA compliance is so much more than creating physically accessible spaces.

So, here you go. Two years later, I finally have created my elevator pitch….. Kimberly Frey Consulting: I provide executive functioning and life balance coaching for individuals 18 and up, support for families of students with disabilities navigating the education system, and inclusivity coaching for workplaces. I will be offering various workshops over the next couple of months designed to help usher in a new year that is full of growth and success. Contact me for more information on how I Can Help!

Navigating The New (but only temporary) Norm

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In just a matter of a few weeks, the American way of life has changed dramatically. Businesses are closing down (some permanently), employees are working from home, children are being home-schooled as schools and daycare centers are being closed, and entire regions and even states have been told to “shelter in place.” People are worried about their health, their finances, and their futures. While this worry can be considered a normal response to a global pandemic, we cannot allow this worry to become our new normal.

During these times of uncertainty, it can seem difficult to remain optimistic, practice self-care, and engage in activities that help alleviate worry, but these are the exact types of things that we need to focus on in order to get us through this difficult time. Here is a list of easily accessible activities that will help you get through your day-to-day (and all are shelter in place/social distancing approved!)

  1. Journaling – writing about what you are experiencing during this historic time can be therapeutic for you. Your journal can be whatever you need it to be. Perhaps it is a place for you to express all your emotions in order to better manage them throughout the day. Or maybe it’s somewhere to record your day-to-day life and how it has changed. You can even use a journal to start expressing your hopes and plans for the future. However you decide to use your journal, remember that it is just that – Yours. Let it be a tool that helps you manage stress, not something that you stress about doing.
  2. Coloring/Drawing – now, I am the first to admit that I am not an artist. If you ask me to draw something, it will be basic, use stick figures, and lack any type of depth. However, I am also the first to admit that coloring is one of the most soothing activities I engage in, and research has proven that it can work for you as well. While it may not be possible for you to go out and buy some adult coloring books right now (yes, they really do exist!), there are websites you can order them from such as: Target, barnesandnoble.com, colorit.com, moleskin.com, or even just through Buy on Google. Notice I did not include Amazon. While Amazon does sell adult coloring books, I tried to offer websites that aren’t being overloaded with demands for medical supplies, cleaning supplies, and household goods.
  3. Exercise – all shelter in place orders allow for time outside. If you have to be indoors because you have an underlying condition that makes you more susceptible to being sick or maybe the weather just isn’t conducive to being outside, you can participate in indoor exercise. There are all kinds of videos available on YouTube; all you have to do is search for “indoor workouts,” “home workouts,” “yoga at home,” etc.
  4. Going Outside – as stated above, all shelter in place orders allow for you to still go outside provided you follow social distancing guidelines. Be sure to maintain approximately six feet away from other people and wash your hands thoroughly when you return home, but by all means, if you are able to get outside for even 15 minutes – do it!
  5. Connecting with others – social distancing does not mean social isolation. Let’s be thankful for technology that makes reaching out to others so easy. Don’t just text your friends and family. Call them, or even better, video chat with them. You can use FaceTime, download WhatsApp, or even use SnapChat so that you can share moments with others that you can’t do in person because of our current circumstances. For those of you who feel you aren’t tech-savvy, these apps are easy to use, and now is the time to reach out to someone who can help you navigate how to use them so you can stay connected.

There are many other ways to practice self-care during these trying times: deep breathing, meditation, taking a bath, lighting soothing candles or incense, cuddling with your loved ones, playing with your pets, and the list goes on. Give yourself permission to be kind and gentle to yourself. If you’re like me, you probably have made up an entire list of projects to complete while you are stuck at home. However, don’t get so caught up in checking items off that list that you don’t take time to embrace how you’re feeling in the moment. Take care of yourselves, because this too shall pass.

We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails. ~ Dolly Parton

You Mean There’s a Name for That?

Being unorganized. Losing things. Feeling overwhelmed by daily activities. Difficulty managing your responsibilities at home and work/school. There is actually a name for the set of skills needed to be successful in these various areas and more – Executive Functioning Skills.

If I were in a room with you right now, I would ask for a show of hands as to how many of you either 1) have heard of them 2) understand what the phrase means or 3) feels confident that you have the knowledge and understanding to teach them to others. Based on conversations I’ve had with teachers and parents over the years, my guess is that more people would raise their hands for the first choice than they would for the third choice.

According to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, executive functioning skills are the skills necessary in order for a person to “plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully.” These are the vital life skills we need to organize our day, create and work toward goals, and live successful, rewarding lives. All individuals with ADHD struggle with their executive functioning skills, but there are others out there who don’t have ADHD who also experience difficulty in this area. People who struggle with their executive functioning skills experience difficulties in many facets of their lives.

1) Organization – while this is an area of difficulty for many people, individuals who have weak executive functioning skills struggle even more. It is hard for them to sift through all of the information they receive on a minute by minute basis, manipulate it, process it, pull from it what they need, store it in memory to pull from later, or even realize it’s information that can just be dumped altogether. This disorganization can appear to others as just sloppiness or a lack of caring on the part of the individual, but that is far from the case.

2) Starting tasks – because an individual with poor executive functioning skills struggles to be organized when presented with tasks, it is that much more difficult for him or her to even begin a task. While a neurotypical individual can get right to it, a neurodiverse individual will often become stressed or anxious just trying to determine where to start. This in turn can cause that individual’s family, friends, co-workers, and boss to assume that the individual is indifferent or unmotivated.

3) Prioritizing – in addition to the difficulties that a person with executive functioning struggles has with just organizing and starting tasks, he or she also struggles to prioritize them. Therefore, what often happens is that the budget report which is due by 5pm is given the same amount of attention as the presentation that is being given in a few days. While these are both important tasks, a person with executive functioning skills has a hard time discerning when and how much effort to give to each project.

There are a myriad of other ways that a person struggles when they have poor executive functioning skills, but the good news is that there also a myriad of different strategies for overcoming these challenges. If you desire more information for yourself, a friend, co-worker, or loved one – I can help! Visit my website for more information or to request a consultation.

I Can Help

I’m official! I am proud to announce that my website kfreyconsulting.com is now live. I am setting forth on a new venture as an educational consultant providing services and support to individuals and families with special education and mental health matters. Before I tell you what services I can provide, let me tell you a little bit about myself.

I started my professional career working with adolescents with severe emotional and behavioral disabilities in the late 1990’s. At that time, I worked at a therapeutic residential treatment center in Florida where I used to live. The work there was hard. We served clients that most other facilities wouldn’t take. We weren’t quite a psychiatric hospital, but we were close. I have plenty of stories from my time there that most people would be hard pressed to believe were true. Yet, I also have so many memories of the good work that was done there – kids who were helped, families that were reunited, and lives that were changed. My time there is actually what started me on my current career path, although I didn’t really realize it at the time.

My entire childhood and adolescent years were spent with me dreaming of becoming a lawyer. I wanted to be a fancy corporate lawyer with all the perks that profession would entail. Seriously. As a kid I would flip through my step-father’s law books (he was a lawyer), and imagine my future self. However, due to a series of life-altering events, I realized I wanted to use my career to help troubled youth. So, I set out to be a social worker with a plan to get my law degree and eventually work with the juvenile and family courts.

While attending my local community college working towards my Associate’s degree, I began substitute teaching. I looked at it as a way to be around kids and continue building my resume while bringing in a little bit of income. Substitute teaching changed everything. I loved being in the classrooms with the students. I worked in a middle school that served a neighborhood that was in distress. Families often lived in poverty with many qualifying for public housing. The neighborhood was the heart of the drug business for that town, so there were the challenges of high violence and crime rates as well. I valued my ability to build relationships with the kids, even though I wasn’t their “regular” teacher. I often was at the school 3-5 days per week, and the more I worked the more I realized this was something I wanted to do. I wanted to be that teacher that impacted a student in a positive way he or she would remember years down the road. When I finished my AA degree, I had completed all the prerequisites for admittance into the Social Work program at the University of Central Florida. The problem? I no longer wanted to be a social worker. I wanted to be a special education teacher. So, I spent my summer taking the four prerequisite courses I needed so that I could be admitted into the Exceptional Education program at UCF instead. The rest, as they say, is history.

So, here I am after close to twenty years as an educator. I have spent most of this time as a special education teacher working with students who have had a myriad of disabilities: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Specific Learning Disabilities, Cognitive Disabilities, and Emotional/Behavorial Disabilities such as ADHD, Depression, Anxiety, and more. As you will see from my website, I provide services to both individual and families in the areas of special education and mental health awareness. Need help understanding your child’s disability and how you can best support him or her both at home and in school? I can help. Trying to navigate your way through your child’s IEP? I can help. Are you an adult with a disability that wants support in identifying ways to be the most successful in your professional and personal life? I can help. Perhaps you’re a business wanting to ensure you are providing a workplace that is focused on positive mental health and equity for all employees. I can also help. While I am not a licensed mental health professional, I am a licensed teacher who has spent years helping others achieve to their fullest potential. I am excited to offer that same expertise to you. I look forward to hearing from you soon!

kfreyconsulting.com

Welcome Back!

Happy New Year! While I understand there are still 4 full months of 2019 left, educators are a group fortunate enough to get two New Years – the traditional calendar year and the start of a new school year. Just as January 1st allows people the opportunity to set new goals, reach for new opportunities, and make new plans, a new school year holds all the promise for educators as well. Every August/September, teachers have the chance to touch new lives and create new experiences that will impact their students for years to come. For we all remember those teachers who excelled at their craft, instilled in us a love for learning, and inspired us to be our very best. Likewise, we also remembered the teachers we had who failed to do so. I, for one, want to be remembered as the former.

As teachers, we have many mandates placed before us. As someone who has been in education for almost twenty years, I have personally seen how the profession has evolved through time. When I first began teaching, the high stakes testing movement had just started. Curriculum mapping and pacing guides were new buzzwords instead of being part of a teacher’s every day vocabulary. While the best teachers have always been adapting curriculum to meet their students’ needs, differentiation and personalized learning were yet-to-be discovered phrases.

However, through the years, the one thing I have seen consistently in education is this: teachers want the best for their students. They want to see their students be successful, learn, and achieve. Teachers often spend time during the summer months actually learning how to be even better teachers. It is a profession where (especially in this day and age), the ones who keep at it are the ones who are truly passionate about their craft. And that’s why I keep coming back, year after year. The excitement of watching a child learn never gets old. The positivity and “can-do” spirit of my colleagues is infectious and motivates me. The challenges placed before me because of legislative, monetary, or policy demands cause me to dig even deeper within myself to meet them.

So, as we start off another year, kudos to my comrades-in-arms for rising to the occasion yet again. And for those among you who are in need of fresh ideas or seeking new avenues of support, please feel free to comment or question below.

Happy 2019-2020, everyone!

It’s All About the Balance

As a (mostly) single parent to my two now adult children, I have spent most of my professional career working two jobs, seven days a week. When my kids were in middle and high school, I actually taught, was the head varsity coach for multiple sports, and worked as a bartender on the weekends. Even now, I still work as an educator and a bartender – insert the myriad of jokes I’ve heard about this here. In all seriousness though, I think the one question that I am asked the most when people hear about my work hours is, “How do you do it?” The answer I always give is, “It’s about finding balance.”

The phrase “finding balance” is used quite a bit these days. Just google the term and the hits that pop up vary from websites that have the term in their name to articles, books, and counseling services all designed to help you find balance. However, I cannot emphasize enough how important this concept of balance is to your overall mental and even physical well-being. Our lives are comprised of three distinct aspects: body, spirit, and soul. Just as a 3-legged stool requires all the legs to be of equal length and spacing in order to provide secure seating, our lives require these three aspects to be equally tended to in order to feel that balance we all desire.

  • Body: Our physical body needs proper care in order to stay healthy and feel well. Eating well, drinking enough water daily, getting exercise, and allowing time for rest are all necessary for our health and well-being. However, don’t feel pressured to follow the latest fads or do something just because everyone else is doing it. The only way you will be successful in taking care of your physical body is if you find what works for you. I honestly have never followed any particular dietary plan such as paleo, keto, intermittent fasting, or the like. However, I tell people all the time that I try to balance out my bad choices. I love food, and I love to eat. Trying to restrict myself to a certain dietary plan is a sure fire way to set myself up for failure and negative feelings about myself. Therefore, if I want pizza or a bacon cheeseburger, I’m going to eat it. But then I’m also going to decide to do that burger without the bun, skip the ice cream that day, or run a few extra miles. In regards to exercise, you absolutely must find what works for you. Can’t stand going to a traditional gym? Do you dread the thought of going out for a run? That’s okay. You can go for a walk or a bike ride instead. Maybe playing tennis or golf is more your thing. Take a dance class or join a recreational league and try something new. Whatever you set out to do, the more enjoyable you feel it is, the more you will consistently engage in that activity – and ultimately that consistency is what matters the most.
  • Soul: Another added benefit of finding physical activities that we are passionate about is that is one way we can in turn feed our souls. Our soul consists of our emotions, our heart, our mental selves. We need to find out what we love and dedicate time to that. Creating art, listening to music, curling up with a good book, watching our favorite TV show, volunteering for a favorite cause, spending quality time with our family members and friends – these are all ways we can feed our souls. Just as you have to find physical activities that you enjoy in order to ensure you will engage in them consistently, you need to determine what activities make you feel the most alive and allow yourself the time to participate in them.
  • Spirit: This word means different things to different people. Simply put, our spirit is that part of us that is in tune with something outside of ourselves. It is the connection we feel to other living beings and to life outside of us. Finding balance here means that you are taking time to nurture that connection in ways that are personally meaningful to you. It could be through attending church or synagogue, prayer, meditation, or practicing whatever your faith is in whatever way you choose.

The common denominator in all this is that you have to find what works for you. Just because I love running and yoga, spending time with my family, and attend church on Sundays doesn’t mean that is what is going to balance out your life. You might have bad knees, are estranged from your family, and are an atheist. The principles don’t change, though. Until the legs of your stool are evened out, you will continue to feel wobbly. If that is your situation right now, feel free to contact me directly as I would love to help you in your quest for balance. Together, we can help you build your best stool.

Preventing the Summer Slide

Summer Vacation. Two of the most magical words known to humankind, especially if you are a child. Summer is the time for staying up late, sleeping in even later, exploring, and adventuring. However, for far too many children, summer is also a time to forget what they worked so hard all year long to learn. Help your kids avoid the infamous summer slide with these helpful tips:

1) Read! Read! Read! I can’t stress this one enough. The more your child is exposed to reading, words, and new vocabulary, the more successful he/she will be in school. Here’s the kicker…. students can read whatever they want! Comic books/graphic novels, pop culture/gossip magazines, picture books, chapter books – it doesn’t matter. As long as your child is constantly being exposed to words within the context of a story, he/she will be in school. Use summer as a time to expose your student to all the different genres available to him/her in order to foster a love of printed word.

2) Find math everywhere! Help your child understand how important math is to his/her every day life. Have them help you determine how much the groceries are going to cost (or the movie tickets), have them cook with you using that new recipe you’ve been wanting to try, or have them help figure out the travel time to your next vacation destination. During the school year, these type of word problems are actually referred to as “real-world math problems.” So, give your children the opportunity to solve them with you as much as possible during the summer.

3) Create learning opportunities each day! Did you plant a garden this year (or even just a plant or two)? Involve your student in the process. Take a road trip to a historical site, even if its historical value is only to you. Share the things about which you are passionate, or that inspire you, with your child and explain to them why. Help them to understand the wonder that still exists in this world, and also they ways they can be a part of making this Earth a better place. Maybe use time during the summer to take him/her with you to work one day so they can learn about what you do all day long, and the academic skills you need to be successful. There are so many ways to create a love of learning in your children, and summer is often the season when you have the most time to be able to do so. Take advantage of it.

In closing, summer is a magical time for children. Capitalize on that by creating experiences that build their academic skills, foster a love of learning, and get them prepped for the work that will start again in the fall. It’ll be so much more fun for both of you than just buying them a workbook or a computer program, I promise!

Welcome!

My name is Kimberly Frey, and I’m excited to introduce myself to you. I have worked in the field of education for almost 20 years; 15 of them teaching in a classroom. Throughout the majority of this time, I have taught and served students with disabilities. It is my pleasure to share my experiences with you, and hopefully some words of wisdom and strategies for success as well. Feel free to like and share this post with anyone you know who is an educator, is currently being educated, or cares about education. So, basically everyone! Thanks for your support. I’ll talk to you soon.