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The Learning Zone

How to Combat Procrastination

I have been working this year with Riverbend High School Senior Abigail Williams on her Commonwealth Governor’s School Culminating Project. The focus of this project is working through procrastination. I am going to present Abby’s research in a two blog series. This is part one of two.

How to Combat Procrastination

By Nina Parrish with tips and research by Abigail Williams

procrastinationWhat is procrastination?

Procrastination is the delay of a task with the intention of eventual completion of that task.

Do you notice that your child has difficulty with procrastination?

Almost everyone is affected by procrastination at some point in their lives. In one study, 95 percent of students reported occasional procrastination while 50 percent reported regular and ongoing procrastination. Some students engage in active procrastination where they purposefully choose to delay an activity because they are motivated by the pressure that time limits create. Other students procrastinate because of personality traits such as perfectionism, low self-esteem, impulsivity or an aversion to the task.

How can procrastination be prevented?

Students can use time management, scheduling and goal-setting activities to decrease procrastination. Here’s how:

  • Keep a daily schedule breaking up larger tasks like projects or papers into small 30-60 minute blocks of time.
  • Complete a detailed weekly/monthly schedule that includes class schedule, homework assignments, activities, and family or social obligations.
  • Have a regular time or amount of time allotted daily to complete homework, studying and assignments. Complete these assignments in a place that is free of distractions and with access to the necessary supplies.
  • Stay motivated by focusing not only on the process, or the means of completion, but on the outcome, or result of the task being completed. Then reward yourself when you reach certain checkpoints while working. For example, with an essay for English, the process would be doing the research and creating the rough draft. As each step in this process is completed, the student might reward themselves with something they enjoy such as a snack, short break, watching videos on YouTube, etc. The overall goal would be the outcome that they hope to achieve such as getting an A on their essay.
  • Remember that everyone procrastinates sometimes, but the key to avoiding procrastination is being proactive and managing stress. See more on managing stress in my next blog.

 -Nina Parrish, M.Ed.

Parrish Learning Zone, LLC  
@parrishlearning | | Like us on Facebook
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Riverbend High School’s We Are One Campaign

Read on to learn about a campaign that local students at Riverbend High School in Spotsylvania have launched to promote inclusiveness and decrease bullying at their school.


This year, Burke Swanson, the Senior Class President at Riverbend High School in Spotsylvania County, decided to do something impactful.  He saw that division and a lack of inclusiveness had become a school-wide problem, and with the help of the other Senior Class representatives: Zach Sims, Jessica Bartlett, Sam Medlin, and Anderson Small, launched a school-wide campaign entitled, the We are One Campaign.  Burke explains, “We are One is stating that we are one community, and in that community we have diversity.”  He hopes that this will be the start of a movement against bullying and for inclusiveness at his school.



diverse_group_of_teenagers.jpgThe Senior Class representatives made t-shirts to publicize the campaign to the rest of the school, and Burke gave a speech which outlined its goals to the student body.  “My hope is that the campaign will bring about respect of the differences that make each person a unique part of Riverbend. By first addressing division in the school, it would then allow the Riverbend students to tackle larger issues. The setup of the school is not going to change; however, what can change are the feelings experienced as each student approaches the end of their assigned hallway.”

“My community is not the only one that struggles with the epidemic that is bullying; stories and videos can be found strewn all across mass media of bullying cases and methods to stop it, but it is not just about fighting the act, it is also about fighting idea,”Burke explains.  With this campaign, the Senior Class representatives hope to dispel the notion that a student has to try to be someone they are not to become a part of the in-crowd or to feel like they fit in.  By taking a public stand against bullying and for an appreciation of the different but equally valuable gifts and talents that each student brings to the community, Riverbend’s Senior Class leaders hope that the work that they have done this year is one step towards the creation of a more inclusive environment for future Riverbend High School students.

-Nina Parrish, M.Ed.

Parrish Learning Zone, LLC  
@parrishlearning | | Like us on Facebook
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The Top 3 Things not to Say or Do to a Pregnant Person While they are Trying to do their Grocery Shopping

As some of you know, we are expecting a baby, our second, in April.  I am in the third trimester, a time where you become so constantly uncomfortable that it eventually motivates you to go through whatever pain is necessary to get the baby out!   As I am reaching the end of this pregnancy, I am reminded of exactly why I disliked this stage of pregnancy so much last time around.  Yes, you say, there are the good parts like feeling your baby kick and picking out all of those cute little tiny versions of big people clothes.  But then there are the bad parts too and nowhere is this more obvious than when making a trip to the grocery store.  

I spend most of my time teaching children through our tutoring business.  I also spent a good bit of time this year teaching manners to middle school students through etiquette classes offered at a nonprofit.  However, it has come to my attention recently that it is actually the people at the grocery store who really need an etiquette lesson.   So here it is, the list inspired by my most recent trip:

The Top 3 Things not to Say or Do to a Pregnant Person While they are Trying to do their Grocery Shopping or At Any other Time:

  1. Tell them Horrifying Stories or Give Unsolicited Advice

pregnant_grocery_shopping.jpgWhy do people feel the need to tell stories of how their labor went horrifically wrong or was unbearably painful?  I was just looking at tomatoes, why does that mean that I want to know that you went through 26 hours of labor with no pain medication because you asked for the epidural too late, that you had to have an emergency C-section and the baby almost didn’t make it because the cord was around its neck, or that you had a horrifying experience where your water broke in public?  The same goes for bragging stories of your all natural birth or nursing a child until they were three.  I just want to shop for my produce, and now I also have to worry that I am going to go into labor, that it will then be catastrophic, and I will mess up my child with pain medication.  I have done this before, but thanks a lot AGAIN for your advice and super helpful stories!

  1. Touch Pregnant People That You Do Not Know Well

Why do people feel like it is okay to touch you when you are pregnant?  People of the public, it is ALWAYS weird when someone you don’t know or have just met touches your stomach.  And this is just the beginning; when your baby is born you can’t even go to the grocery store without some stranger trying to touch their hands or feet!  Why do people do this?  

By the way, it is also rude to stare.  Even if you do not reach out and touch me, I still see you.

  1. Make Comments Such As:  Are you having twins?  Wow, you are huge! You’re really getting big (or any variation of these things, really.)

This was inspired by the lady at Walmart when I was pregnant with my first, who yelled across the parking lot, “Oh my gosh; you are huge!  Are you having twins?” And also by the checkout lady at my local grocery store who asked last week if I was having twins.   No, I am not having twins, stranger at the grocery store, my husband is 6’4’’ and I am 5’1’’.  I have only gained 15 pounds, but thanks for letting me know that you can see every one of them.  I appreciate that, and didn’t realize it enough when I couldn’t get my pants to fit, even with that stretchy elastic band thing this morning.  Not that it is any of your business because I DON’T KNOW YOU, but thanks a lot.  Here I was thinking that I was looking pretty good once I finally managed to find jeans that fit relatively not uncomfortably and cute shoes that actually still went on my feet, but thanks for that reality check.  Now not only can I feel miserable on the inside, I can also know that the world thinks that I look huge on the outside.

So, you know how normally, when you are in public or talking to someone, it would be rude to all of a sudden just tell them how fat they are or really to make any negative or ambiguous comment about their appearance?  Yeah, the same thing applies with pregnant people.  It also applies after the baby is born, when you ask rude questions like, “When is your baby due?” when you can clearly see that there is a baby right in their cart!

 By the way, I really appreciate all of the people who say things like, “you look fabulous,” “you are the cutest pregnant person I have ever seen”, or “look, all of the weight is in your tummy; it’s like you’ve got a basketball under your shirt.”  They may be lies, but they are good lies that keep you going when you spent all morning trying to find clothes that fit over your ginormous body.

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Become a Savvy Studier

Several times a week I have a conversation that goes something like this:

Parent: My kid studies; I think; I see them studying. Then they take the test and they do poorly. It’s like they don’t retain what they have studied. They see the test, get nervous, and forget. Maybe they have test anxiety.

female_student_studying.jpgTest anxiety is a type of performance anxiety that has physical, behavioral and emotional symptoms. Children who are experiencing nausea, shortness of breath, fainting, headaches, extreme fear, and/or difficulty concentrating before or during tests could have test anxiety. However, most of us are experiencing something much more common. Passing anxiety is a normal emotion that all of us feel from time to time. In fact this stress may just be a sign that your student could use some help studying effectively.

Many students look at notes or the textbook the night before the test for a few hours and call this studying. Then they go into the test, maybe see something different than they are expecting, feel a bit nervous and forget what they looked at the night before. This is completely normal! In fact, there is a scientific reason for it. When you take in information by looking at it once, like in the scenario above, you store it in your short-term memory. Our short-term memories have limited capacities, (about seven pieces of information), and do not respond well under stress. For this reason, short-term memory is not very effective in testing situations. As soon as we feel the stress of the testing environment, we lose the information we have learned.

Instead, the goal of studying should be to get information into our long-term memory, as long-term memory is not impacted by stressful situations and has an unlimited capacity. Here’s how:

  1. Timing- Start studying in advance of the test. In fact, start studying the first day you receive the material. After taking notes in class, come home, read over the notes and make notecards. Each day, try to study this new material for 15 minutes by quizzing yourself, doing an activity or game to practice recalling the concepts or doing something new with the material like making it into a diagram or watching a short video. Keep practicing until you get the next set of notes.
  2. Variety- Study in many different ways, and do not always study terms or concepts in the same order. The more you do, the more you will remember. People in general remember about 90 percent of what they do and only 20 percent of what they hear. We tend to remember the first and last things that we have learned, so switch it up. Varying the order will help you remember more.
  3. Stay Focused- Limit distractions by silencing cell phones and placing them out of sight. Then study with a goal in mind. Set a task to complete (learn 15 new terms), in a certain amount of time (30 minutes), and a way to know that you are finished (as indicated by a 90% or above on a practice quiz). Reward yourself with a break when you have met this goal.

-Nina Parrish, M.Ed.

Parrish Learning Zone, LLC  
@parrishlearning | | Like us on Facebook
(540) 999-8759


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Marshmallows and the Management of Multiple Tasks


In a now classic, 1972 study by Walter Mischel at Stanford, children ages 3-5 were given a marshmallow and told if they could resist eating the marshmallow for 15 minutes, while the teacher stepped out of the classroom, then they would get two marshmallows.  Follow-up studies showed that the children who were able to delay the gratification of eating the marshmallow for 15 minutes:  had higher SAT scores, attained higher levels of education, had lower body mass index scores, used risky drugs less frequently, and were better able to deal with interpersonal issues in order to maintain close relationships with others.  So what made it possible for some preschoolers to delay gratification, while others could not wait?  According to Mischel, what is needed for self-control in any situation is executive functioning.

Executive functioning skills allow us to plan, remember instructions, focus attention, and manage multiple tasks simultaneously.  The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University compares executive functioning to an air traffic control system at a busy airport.  An effective air traffic control system can safely manage many different arrivals and departures on multiple runways.  Just as a person with highly developed executive functioning skills can control impulses, stay focused, delay gratification, and set and achieve goals.  You may wonder, are certain children just born with these skills?  Children are not born with executive functioning skills, but all children are born with the potential to develop these skills.

Executive functioning skills are developed when children get what they need from caregivers and their environment.  Children are the most able to learn executive functioning skills between the ages of 2 and 7 and then again during adolescence and the teenage years.  Adults can do several things to help children develop these vital executive functioning skills:

  1. Carefully Select a Preschool

For young children, choose a preschool that has a play-based or child-directed model allowing children to learn to solve their own problems.   Activities should foster creative play, social connection, exercise and physical activity, and teach children how to deal with stress.    Growth-promoting environments also provide children with opportunities to practice skills before they must perform them and eventually allow children the freedom to direct their own activities with decreased adult involvement.

  1. Create a Consistent and Reliable Environment

For young children and teenagers routines and stable relationships with caring adults are important to being able to predict their environment, allowing them to feel empowered to make plans and decisions for themselves.

  1. Teach Children to Wait, Persist, and Practice.

Prioritize teaching children patience.  Praise children when they wait or demonstrate patience instead of interrupting others or choosing immediate gratification.  When children do not demonstrate patience, teach them by modeling the appropriate behavior you would like to see in the situation.  When children do something over and over again, this practice helps them to improve persistence, concentration, and focus.

  1. Model Appropriate Social Behavior.

As parents, we have to practicing demonstrating the behavior and level of self-control that we want our children to demonstrate.  For example, instead of yelling at them or others when we are frustrated or annoyed, try modeling the desirable behavior by saying something like, “I feel very frustrated when you do not listen to me when I ask you to stop.  I feel like yelling, but I am going to take a few minutes to calm down, and then we will discuss the consequences for not following directions.”  In addition, make sure to draw attention to your child and praise them when they exercise self-control and model the social behavior that you would like to see.

  1. Choose Activities That Promote the Development of Executive Functioning

There are many play and storytelling activities that can be done with younger children to promote the development of executive functioning skills.  Older children should focus on developing what are traditionally referred to as study, goal-setting, and self-monitoring skills.  See the following link for age appropriate ideas for developing executive functioning skills:


-Nina Parrish, M.Ed.

Parrish Learning Zone, LLC  
@parrishlearning | | Like us on Facebook
(540) 999-8759

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Does Your Child Struggle with Learning or Attention?

According to the 2014 State of Learning Disabilities Report,, one in five people in the United States, ages 3-20 have difficulty with reading, math, writing, focus and/or attention. Is your child one of the twenty percent who struggles in school due to a learning issue? If so, it is likely that you may feel overwhelmed when trying to seek out necessary information regarding your student’s learning needs. As a special education teacher, I met many parents who felt lost in the IEP and 504 process required by the school system and simply inundated with paperwork and information. 
struggling_learning_overwhelmed.jpgIf this description resonates with you, you may be interested in a new site called, which was introduced in late October of 2104 by fifteen groups specializing in children’s learning and attention issues, in conjunction with the Advertising Council. The website is very user-friendly with several unique features:
  1. The site allows you to fill out a profile which will then personalize your experience and the information that you are offered based on the area/s where your child struggles with learning.
  2. The site has a simulation tool where you can experience what it may be like to have a variety of learning or attention issues. This is paired with personal stories from students who experience these issues.
  3. There is a Tech Finder tool that allows you to locate assistive technology based on your student’s learning issue, grade level, and they type of technology you are looking for.
  4. Online parent support groups, moderated by educators, are offered.
  5. Easy to read articles, written by experts, are offered on a variety of learning issues as well as topics of interest such as special services and navigating the IEP process.
-Nina Parrish, M.Ed.
Parrish Learning Zone, LLC  
@parrishlearning | | Like us on Facebook
(540) 999-8759
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What to Do About a Bad Report Card

sad_student_bad_grades_1.jpgIn most local school districts, students are receiving first nine weeks grades about now.  Did your student bring home a report card that was less than exciting or not quite what you were expecting?  Here are some suggestions on what to do now:

1.       Meet with your Student’s Teacher/s

Most school districts offer conference nights following report cards for this specific reason.  Schedule a time to meet with each of your student’s teachers.  While you are there, find out if they are completing all assignments and turning them in, trying their best in class and always participating, and what the teacher thinks may be contributing to their low grade.  You can also call the school to set-up an appointment if you missed your conference night or discuss a plan with the teachers over the phone.


2.       Consider Setting a Homework Time

Many children struggle with time-management.  A good way to teach children how to study is to set a specific minimum amount of study time each day.  Explain that just like you would practice every day for a sport or dance recital, school takes daily practice for good results.  Younger students should have a short time like 30 minutes whereas older students may have between one and two hours per day.  During this time, kids are not allowed to use their phone or watch television and must complete homework assignments.  If they do not have specific homework assignments that day, then they can review notes from class, start on something that is due in the future, read their textbook chapter, or read a book appropriate for their grade or reading level.


3.       Check on Your Student’s Organization

Do they have a separate place to keep notes and papers for each class?  Is there a place to put homework, and assignments to be turned in?  Are there loose papers in their backpack or crumbled papers in their room?  Do they have a consistent and quiet place to complete homework?


4.       Check Grades Frequently

Many local school systems offer a way for parents to check grades online.  Parents should check grades at least every few weeks to address issues that their student may be having.  They can also call or email teachers with questions or to ask for suggestions to improve grades before the end of the nine weeks.


5.       Seek out Help

If your student does not understand the content well enough to complete assignments or homework, they are unable to stay organized, or could use some assistance with study habits sometimes it can be easier to seek out the help of a tutor.  Having a teacher who specializes in that subject area help your child can eliminate a lot of frustration and stress from the nightly routine.

-Nina Parrish, M.Ed.

Parrish Learning Zone, LLC  
@parrishlearning | | Like us on Facebook
(540) 999-8759

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Manners Matter

In this era of smart phones at the dinner table, texting instead of talking, self-indulgence and social media, how do we make sure our children are not losing the ability to conduct polite conversations and consider the needs of others?

Like most skills, basic social skills need to be taught.  As children enter school, and later the work world, manners and social skills are a requirement, not an option. The problem is parents try to teach these skills to kids who roll their eyes or don’t listen. This is where outside help is beneficial. The Fredericksburg Area Service League’s Junior Cotillion of Fredericksburg is an affordable nonprofit program that provides instruction in manners and etiquette for 6-8th grade students. Alea Bryar, President of the Fredericksburg Area Service League says, "Junior Cotillion provides invaluable instruction for middle schoolers by teaching them proper etiquette, good manners and ballroom dance. The students will have fun while also learning how to show respect and how to value themselves and others in a variety of social situations. Learning these social skills will help garner confidence in the students and will be a benefit to them not only now but throughout their lives."  All funds raised through Junior Cotillion of 51e7510b094869fef468bcb23112836d.jpgFredericksburg benefit local children’s charities such as Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Head Start, Fairy Godmother Project, Fredericksburg Area Food Bank, Rappahannock Refuge, Inc., Hope House and Rappahannock Big Brothers Big Sisters. At Junior Cotillion, students learn and are given plenty of opportunities to practice practical skills such as:

  • How to introduce themselves and shake hands
  • Ways to engage in polite conversation and gracefully exit a conversation when needed
  • Writing “thank you”notes
  • How to receive compliments and react to unkind remarks
  • Telephone and computer etiquette
  • Table manners
  • Familiarity with formal and informal place settings
  • How to respond to an invitation

Research shows that teaching children manners and having them practice those manners will result in more empathetic and socially aware children. This is necessary for school success, but is also an important component in future job success. Lorrie Hummer, M.Ed., career coach at Parrish Learning Zone emphasizes, “Interview skills can be one of the most valuable skills students can learn. Most of their big life changes usually begin with an interview:  for their first job, college interviews, scholarship interviews, and school counseling interviews for classes and internships. Confidence is the most important element you can bring to an interview.”  This is not just manners instruction; it is crucial life skills instruction.

For more information on Junior Cotillion of Fredericksburg visit Fredericksburg Area Service League.

-Nina Parrish, M.Ed.

Parrish Learning Zone, LLC  
@parrishlearning | | Like us on Facebook
(540) 999-8759



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What to Ask at Your Child’s Parent Teacher Conference

Fback-to-school-night_1.gifall is the time for Back to School Nights and parent-teacher conferences.   You may be wondering what to expect at these events.  At most schools, you will get a chance to walk your child’s schedule and meet with each teacher for 10-15 minutes, usually as a group.   This is a great opportunity for your child to show you what they do each day.  As a parent, it is also a great time to meet and establish a working relationship with each of your child’s teachers.  So, what should you do to get the most out of those valuable 15 minutes?

1.       Introduce yourself and let the teacher know about your child.  Many times, the conferences at the beginning of the year are group conferences with a bit of time afterwards to talk with the teacher.  Make sure the teacher knows who you are and who your student is.

2.       Try to get an idea of the teacher’s expectations for the class.  Make sure that your student has all of the necessary supplies and resources to meet those expectations.

3.       Check in to ensure that your student is participating and doing their best work.  Ask to see samples of work your child has done so far.  Seeing completed and graded assignments is the best way to understand whether your student is meeting classroom expectations.

4.       If there is an abbreviation or piece of educational jargon that is used that you don’t understand, feel free to ask for clarification.

5.       See if there is anything that the teacher needs for the classroom or any way that you can help.  This is a way to ease the burden on the teacher and develop a good relationship with him or her.  Often teachers have a great need for supplies and volunteers for their classrooms and having parents help out can make the classroom environment better for everyone.

And if you leave feeling like you still have questions or concerns, remember parent conference night is not the only time to talk with teachers.  Parents should contact teachers regularly to check in on their child and see what they can do to help.  It is beneficial to already know your child’s teacher well should a problem ever arise later in the school year.

This week Spotsylvania County has Back to School nights for elementary school on Tuesday 9/23, high school on Wednesday 9/24, and middle School on Thursday  9/25.  In Fredericksburg City, Walker Grant’s Back to School Night was Wednesday 9/17, James Monroe Thursday 9/18, and Hugh Mercer is Thursday 9/25.

-Nina Parrish, M.Ed.

Parrish Learning Zone, LLC  
@parrishlearning | | Like us on Facebook
(540) 999-8759

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Is this what your kid's backpack looks like?

disorganized_backpack.gifI see a lot of kids whose good-intentioned parents buy them a whole pile of school supplies, only to find that by week two, their book bag is a mess, and they are using none of them.  Seriously, these kids have 20 folders, binders, pens, highlighters, dividers, and composition notebooks but absolutely no organization!  Does this sound like your kid?  If so, here are some back to school organization tips to try:

For the very disorganized student, try one binder

Trust me; even if his teachers ask for something different, they will prefer one binder where he can find his papers to having to make ten copies of the same worksheet or never seeing assignments again. However, if you are unsure, you could run this idea by the teacher before you implement it. By the way, I know what you are thinking, and I am not talking about one of those binders that absolutely no elementary student can even lift up it is so heavy, with the velcro!  Do not get that!   

  • Buy: one sturdy three ring  binder that is no bigger than 2 inch, a two-pocket hole-punched folder for each class, loose leaf paper,a pencil case with holes, a hole punch that fits in a binder, and a planner that is hole punched.

  • Pick a color for each subject.  Separate the binder into sections for each subject, using the folders.  Label each folder with the name of the subject.  Designate a pocket on each folder for “homework” and “work to be turned in.”  Place notebook paper in each section.

  • Put the pencil case, agenda, and hole punch in the front of the binder.

Color Code

Buy book covers for each textbook that are the same color as the folder for that class.  Making everything for each class the same color will make it easier to grab the correct items quickly.  Kids can also highlight homework in their agenda, for that class, in that color, making it easy to grab the correct textbooks before heading home.

Clean Out Regularly

Set a regular time each week to go through the binder and also check on grades/work completion online.  This will allow your student time to put papers in their place, get rid of trash, and complete missing assignments before they pile up and become overwhelming. Papers that are from a previous unit or nine-weeks grading period, should be taken out of the binder and stored in a color-coded file folder at home incase they are needed later to study for a unit test, midterm or final exam.

For more help with organization and study skills sign up for our Study Skills Boot camp offered August 25th-29th.  Click here for more information:

-Nina Parrish, M.Ed.

Parrish Learning Zone, LLC  
@parrishlearning | Like us on Facebook
(540) 999-8759

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About Nina

nina parrish

Nina Parrish graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology. Following graduation from the University of Mary Washington, she received the Project PISCES scholarship to attend North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University where she completed her certification in Special Education for K-12 students with learning disabilities, mental retardation, and emotional disturbance. After obtaining her license, Nina earned a Master's Degree in Education for School Counseling in grades Pre K-12 from Virginia Commonwealth University. Nina taught in the public schools in North Carolina and Virginia for 7 years. Nina currently owns, Parrish Learning Zone, a K-12 local tutoring service with her husband Jay, who is also a teacher. They live in Spotsylvania with their daughter.


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Cooking Autism

Cooking Autism, Inc. is driven to help children with neurological disorders (including autism) learn how to cook. Participants are encouraged to pick up critical communication skills, learn how to work as a team and be more independent. They can build skills in math, reading, and science, and learn about cooking-related topics such as health and nutrition. 



The opinions and/or views expressed on this blog represent the thoughts of individual blogger and not necessarily those of Fredericksburg Parent & Family Magazine or any of its employees or staff.