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Archive for the ‘Home-School Connection’ Category

5 Simple Ways to Make Life Easier for Your Sensitive Kid

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Sensory smart parenting made easy.

Jayden, an active preschooler, loves the playground. After a few minutes, he’s so revved up that he starts running around, bulldozes over other children in his path, and then digs into the sandbox, spraying his little sister, Jenny, nearby. Jenny starts crying because she hates sand on her skin, and it’s sticking more than usual because she refused to let you properly rub in sunblock. She can’t stand that either. You manage to calm both kids down and head to the supermarket because you forgot to buy frozen spinach cakes, the only vegetable they’ll eat. You bribe them with cookies to behave and grab another brand of spinach cakes because they’re out of the usual one. Maybe they won’t notice? Fortunately, your spouse bathes the kids so you can make dinner, turning up the music to tune out the complaints:

“The bath is too hot!”
“You’re pulling my hair!”
“My pajamas hurt!”
“That music is too LOUD!”

Then you serve dinner. The kids are pleased with the mac n’ cheese at exactly the temperature they like but … the spinach cakes are WRONG. Jenny starts to wail and Jayden calls her a baby. And the nighttime battles begin.

Quirks vs. Sensory Issues?

Do your child’s likes and dislikes make you feel like you’re catering to a cute but impossible dictator? All of us have preferences and intolerances. But there’s a big difference between the endearing quirks that all kids have and sensory issues that make living with children SO very difficult at times.

We all learn through our senses, both the familiar ones—touch, sight, sound, taste and smell—and some that are less well known: vestibular (our sense of movement), proprioception (our internal body awareness), and interoception (our sense of physiological well-being or distress). Sensory processing refers to how we transform all of these sensory messages into useful information so we know what’s going on in the world and with our bodies so we can respond proportionately.

Some of our kids, and some of us, are wired differently. When people have sensory processing issues, their brains do not interpret sensory information accurately and reliably, so their responses may be out of proportion. They may overreact to certain sensory experiences that don’t seem to bother anyone else. They might be hypersensitive, feeling things too intensely and thus overreacting to a tiny scratch or to getting messy with glue or paint. The hypersensitive child might be fussy about clothing or food textures. A child can also be hyposensitive (underreactive), needing a lot of input for it to register in his brain—stuffing his mouth with food to feel it in there, sprawling on the floor during circle time to feel the floor beneath him, or playing too roughly at recess. Many kids have sensory meltdowns when there is too much input to process, as can happen in a busy classroom or crowded store. Fortunately there are “sensory smart” parenting hacks you can use to minimize the effect of these sensitivities.

1.Keep a journal to help you predict and prepare for sensory-related problems.

Write out where the problem happened, what preceded it, the problematic behavior and what seemed to help.

2. Create a visual or written list of the day’s events so your child knows what to expect.

Children (and many adults) feel more confident and capable when they know what’s ahead. If a disliked activity is planned, collaborate on ways to make it more tolerable such as downloading favorite music on your smartphone for your child to hear while she’s sitting in the doctor’s office.

3. Bring a bag of tricks to help your child stay on an even keel.

If you know your child gets fidgety when waiting in line, keep a supply of calming items: an unbreakable show globe, a container of putty, chewing gum and so on. If your child is sensitive to noise, bring sound-reducing earmuffs, noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs.

4. Get them moving! Kids need to move, some more than others.

If your child is bouncing off the walls when it’s time to sit down for dinner, plan ahead and have him get intense movement before dinner such as climbing a few sets of stairs, jumping on a mini-trampoline with a safety bar (or a mat on the floor), running laps and so on. If your kid loves screens, put on a gonoodle.com or other online activity that encourages movement. Exercise keeps kids healthy and also generates those feel-good chemicals that keep kids happy too.

5. Take breaks and don’t over-schedule.

We’re all overworked and overbooked these days. We mighy be used to it, and lots of kids thrive on being busy, but sensitive kids need downtime. Keeping it together at school all day among active kids and all of those academic, social and behavioral demands is a lot to ask of a sensitive child. Taking a short restorative break in a quiet, softly lit room or taking a peaceful walk in a park after school can make all the difference!

When to Get Help

Some kids, teens and adults have sensory challenges so significant that they interfere with learning, playing, working—and the ability to parent confidently. Somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of children have what’s called sensory processing disorder (SPD), including those diagnosed with autism and attention deficits, as well as kids who do not have any other developmental issues. The Sensory Checklist in Raising a Sensory Smart Child, which you can also download from sensorysmarts.com, will help you better understand your child’s sensitivities. A pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in sensory challenges can help you create more sensory-friendly environments and routines while, even more importantly, building your child’s ability to better process everyday sensory experiences.


Lindsey Biel, M.A., OTR/L, is an occupational therapist with a private practice in New York City. She is co-author of the award-winning book, Raising a Sensory Smart Child: The Definitive Handbook for Helping Your Child with Sensory Processing Issues.

 

This article was written by Lindsey Biel from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

What to do When Your Kid’s Teacher Wants to Talk About Behavior Problems

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Be ready to listen and help create a plan.

A creeping feeling of dread comes the first time the teacher reaches out. Early in the school year, the teacher pulls you aside or sends an email saying,“Can we find some time to talk?” Most parents know in the back of their mind some behavior challenges are on the horizon, but don’t know how they’ll manifest in school. As a parent, the conversations that follow can be daunting. But you can do your child, and yourself, a world of good if you hone in on what your child’s teacher is saying. Here are five steps to engage with your teacher in the most productive way possible.

1. Don’t Panic

The teacher isn’t judging you. She isn’t judging your child. In fact, everybody involved is aligned on the same goal: how can we create the best possible experience for this child? Of course, you’re going to have anxiety over the wellbeing of your child, so it’s not easy to put it aside. But in its place, view the conversation as an invitation to start a dialogue. Until you have more information, you don’t want to make assumptions about the road ahead.

2. Listen

Your teacher spends a lot of time with your child, especially in the early grades. Teachers know your child and want to see him succeed. As the conversation begins with your teacher, gather as much information as you can. Ask her to be specific about the behaviors that have been observed, and why they are concerning. Here are some specific questions you can ask:

  • How big of a problem is this? The teacher could simply be telling you about a single challenging episode, just so you know, with no long-term plan of action necessary. Or, they could be clueing you into a more significant problem.

  • What is the nature of the problem? It could be things like trouble with transitions, or aggression.

  • Should we be pulling in more resources? There are many things a school can do to help a kid who is struggling, including specific supports at school (sometimes called Response to Intervention or RTI) all the way to arranging for an evaluation for your child. An evaluation is a more significant step, but also opens up doors to increased aid and professional services your child may be entitled to. Schools are responsible for creating learning environments for all students.

  • What supports might help at home? The teacher will have some ideas about tools and methods that might work at home. Even better, they can match the system at school.

3. Build a Team and Stay Positive

Everyone wants your child to succeed. If you get defensive, it makes the team less productive. If the teacher is helping you understand the onset of more complex issues, the two of you are going to have to work together to communicate with doctors and insurance. You’ll want to plot out strategies and understand how you can navigate your specific school to create the best environment possible for your child. Your teacher isn’t blaming you and wants to work with you. Complex problems are going to mean stepping into a world of increased supports with a catacomb-like vocabulary. Your teacher and the school staff have been there before. At the point you get here, you’ll also want to turn to your pediatrician, and start thinking about additional professional services (like a psychologist or clinical social worker).

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you won’t be able to talk to school staff with trust. While you shouldn’t give up on re-establishing that trust, there are members of your community you can turn to. Many communities will have a SEPAC (special education parent advisory council) that can help. A special education advocate can also be a starting point, since they’ll know the system. Finding a local advocate is usually as simple as turning to your local parent community (a Facebook group in your hometown) and asking for recommendations.

4. Follow Up

Once a teacher alerts you there’s a problem, try to check in after you first talk. This is going to be the first clue on how seriously the teacher takes the problem. If the check-in suggests everyone has moved on, that’s great. If the teacher is talking about supports that have been put in place and how everyone is responding to them, then you have a clue they view the challenges as something that will persist. If supports are ongoing, try to keep checking in, and see how things are progressing. Even if your child is receiving supports, you should still expect progress. Schools are getting better about taking data and should be able to tell you how things are going.

5. Find Ways to Support Your Child in the Home

You can extend your child’s learning into your home. What this looks like will depend on what challenges you’re facing. Your teacher might have some recommendations, or you could echo the supports being used in the classroom. If you’ve reached out to your doctor, then they might have some ideas as well. I personally tend to recommend methods that reward kids’ innate drive to learn through exploration. At some level, we all know we’re not going to be able to reason kids through behavioral challenges. But we can tap into experiential learning. Sports can do this; some kids find a place where they latch onto the teamwork aspect. Surprisingly, video games can sometimes pull off the same trick, especially if the family can play together and develop ways to cooperate.

Jason Kahn PhD is a dad, Researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital, Instructor at Harvard Medical School, Co-founder & Chief Science Officer at Mightier. Mightier uses the power of bioresponsive games to help kids build and practice calming skills to meet real-world challenges.

 

This article was written by Jason Kahn PhD from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

5 Easy Ways to Sneak STEM Lessons into Your Kid’s Day

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Creative ways to turn your child into a little scientist.

There’s a growing public conversation about the importance of getting kids more engaged in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), to prepare them for their futures. Our economy, workplaces and society require more women and men who excel in these fields and can drive the innovations that will make our world a better place. Despite its obvious importance, it isn’t always easy to get children excited about STEM education.

That’s why I penned The Imagine It Book: Discover, Create and Invent Our Amazing Future, which offers some tips on fun ways you can get your children excited about STEM learning. Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Encourage Curiosity

Kids ask a lot of questions, and sometimes we just don’t have the time to field them all in the moment. Buy a small journal or spiral bound notebook that you can keep with you when at home, in the car or out and about in your community. When your children ask questions that relate to science, technology or how things work, write them down. Set aside time each week to sit down with the book and a computer and find the answers to those questions. This experience not only informs children, but also helps them understand the research process so they can answer their own questions and fully embrace their curiosity and drive to discover new things.

2. Plan a Field Trip

We don’t all have the knowledge or experience to be informed STEM educators for our children. Luckily, most communities have institutions and experiences that can help with this process. Museums and libraries often have programs for children to help them experience STEM topics firsthand. Plan field trips to places or events in your community that your children will find interesting. Create fun research assignments for your kids prior to the field trip so they are flexing their curiosity muscles and preparing their minds to fully engage in the experience and understand the information being presented. Afterward, let them share pictures and stories from the experience with the family at meal time or when everyone is together.

3. Take it Apart

We don’t generally encourage the kids in our lives to destroy their things, but it can be a good exercise from time to time to let children really dig into how things are made and put together. Some examples of items that are fun to take apart include clocks, radios, typewriters, old computers, toasters or mechanical toys. For safety, make sure wires are completely cut off from electronic items and that there is no power source for the item. For ideas and guidance, search “take things apart” in YouTube for a ton of tutorial videos. Some kids may really get into watching these videos even if they aren’t disassembling the items themselves.

4. Make Them Reporters

Most children have someone in their lives who creates things or works in the fields of science and technology. Arrange for your child to interview one of these people. Help them do research on the family member or friend’s area of expertise and put together a list of questions. You can also help them video the interview so it can be shared with others via your social media or at a family event.

5. Make the World a Better Place

It’s important to help children identify issues that are important to them and develop a lifelong habit of giving back and making a difference. Help your children identify a cause or issue that is close to their heart like helping animals, the environment or developing cures to diseases. Then supervise them as they do research on the internet to find organizations that are working on the frontline of these issues. Most nonprofit organizations have interactive materials or videos that help explain how their research or innovation is making a difference in their area of focus. You can also help kids set aside a portion of their allowance each week to support the organization’s work so they can feel like an active part of the solution while they are learning.


Ellen Sabin is the founder of Watering Can Press and the author of a series of award-winning books that “grow kids with character.” Watering Can Press books are used widely by companies to support employees (through ERGs, Events, EAPs and other touch-points), clients (giving branded copies to connect with the family market for brand outreach, marketing and sales) and communities (through foundations, CSR, volunteer programs or donations to partner nonprofits). Ellen speaks at conferences and events to adults and hosts reading events with children on the topics of her books.

 

This article was written by Ellen Sabin from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Science Says *This* Surprising Trait Will Help Your Kid Succeed in School

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We all know kids who started reading (as in full books) at 18 months. Others had the gross motor skills to ditch their training wheels at four. One friend’s son plays Mozart on the piano and devours Harry Potter books. (He’s six.) And while all of these achievements are amazing—and debatably innate as opposed to parent-directed—they’re not necessarily concrete predictors of academic success. Want to know what is? Curiosity.

For a new study conducted at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, pediatricians with expertise in developmental behavior analyzed data collected from 6,200 children over the course of their lives, from nine months old through kindergarten. They conclusively found that “greater curiosity was associated with greater kindergarten reading and math academic achievement.” Regardless of gender or socioeconomic background, added the researchers, “Curiosity may be an important, yet under-recognized contributor to academic achievement. Fostering curiosity may optimize academic achievement at kindergarten.”

Interestingly, the kids’ efforts and their ability to sit still and listen in class had less to do with academic success than you might guess. (PSA to the parents of kids who run around like crazy during circle time: Now is your cue to rejoice.) Explains Science Daily: “U-M researchers factored in another important known contributor to academic achievement known as ‘effortful control,’ or the ability to stay focused in class. They found that even independent of those skills, children who were identified as curious fared well in math and reading.” Clarifies lead researcher Dr. Prachi Shah: “These findings suggest that even if a child manifests low effortful control [or in-classroom focus], they can still have more optimal academic achievement, if they have high curiosity.”

So the next time your kid fires off “why?” faster than you could possibly formulate answers (Why is the sky blue? Why do dogs sweat from their tongues? Why do I have two eyes instead of one? What are s’mores? Can I have one? Can I have 10? Why?), celebrate it like the sign of genius it surely is. Then take them to a museum or library to investigate, stat. Curiosity! It won’t kill cats. And it just may land your kid on the honor roll.

RELATED: The One Thing This Mom Does to Cross Items Off Her To-Do List

 

This article was from PureWow and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Five Ways to Encourage STEAM Learning

STEAM learning (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) has become a vital part of early childhood education. Team WorkSTEAM concepts help prepare children for life in the 21st century. After all, STEAM-related jobs make up one of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. economy (Baird-Remba, Guey, & Lubin, 2013). This is expected to increase over time as children eventually join the workforce. Here are five ways you can encourage STEAM learning at home.

  1. Take a field trip. Museums, zoos, aquariums, libraries and even public parks provide many opportunities to introduce STEAM subjects. Be sure to engage your child, ask her what she would like to see and ask whether she would like to learn more about what she has seen.
  2. Watch STEAM-related TV shows and movies. While screen time should not be solely relied upon for education, there are many ways it can help enhance your child’s learning experience. Things like documentaries and educational programming may strengthen your child’s understanding of STEAM subjects.
  3. Conduct experiments. Many fun and easy science experiments can be done at home with simple household items. You can find some ideas here. You can also help your child keep a journal of the experiments she completes and record what she learns from each one.
  4. Encourage questions. Children are naturally inquisitive, often asking “why?” or “how?” Following this thread of curiosity may lead to a STEAM subject which interests your child. If you don’t know the answer to your child’s question, research the topic with him.
  5. Ask your child what she would like to be when she grows up. Many careers are tied to STEAM learning. Help your child find out more about the field she wants to pursue and what she needs to learn to get there.

References

Baird-Remba, R., Guey, L., & Lubin, G. (5 June 2013). 14 US Industries That Will Boom In The Next Decade. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/americas-fastest-growing-industries-2013-6

Five Tips for Developing Healthy Learning Habits

  • Encourage play. Playing alone and with others not only builds brain development, it also helps children develop social skills and a sense of ethics. The most effective play is free of evaluation and correction (after all, throwing a ball shouldn’t be “right” or “wrong”), while promoting autonomy.
  • Play together. In addition to their ABCs and 123s, preschool children are learning and developing life skills that will shape who they grow into as adults.  One of these building blocks is learning to play well with others and accepting one another’s differences.
  • Get adequate sleep and proper nutrition. Your child will do their best if they get to sleep early and eat a healthy breakfast each day before school. A daily diet of junk food is not compatible with learning. It can cause listlessness and hyperactivity, which can impair a child’s ability to learn. Skipping breakfast, especially, is a detriment to a child’s education.
  • Continue year-long education. Routine provides structure, which is often lacking during the summer months when children all too quickly become detached from the lessons they learned throughout the school year.  Maintaining a schedule throughout the summer supports an environment that is less of a contrast to the classroom and provides a healthy balance between building skills, play and rest.
  • Turn off the screens. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to avoid television and other electronic media for children two years of age and younger. Time spent in front of a computer, TV, video game or other similar devices can interfere with schoolwork, physical activity, curious exploration, social interaction and play.

Five Ways to Prevent “Summer Slide”

Summer is an awesome time of year. It’s full of family get-togethers, trips to the pool and vacations. With all that awesomeness, though, sometimes learning falls by the wayside. Research has shown that some children experience summer learning loss, also known as “summer slide” because their minds aren’t as engaged as they are during the school year. You can help to keep your child’s brain active and prevent summer slide with these five fun learning activities:

  1. Read, read, read. Read to your child or encourage him to read for twenty minutes every day. Taking a trip to the library on hot, humid or rainy days can be fun, too. Also, listening to audio books is great during car trips.
  2. Learn a new word every week. Make this a game by seeing who can use the new word the most times throughout the week. You can even make a scoreboard and stick it on the fridge. Encourage your child to look through a picture dictionary to pick out new words.
  3. Get cooking. Cooking with your child is a fun way to teach your child math and reading skills as well as how to follow instructions. Look through a cookbook with your little one, and ask him what he would like to make.
  4. Hit the road. Take a field trip to a museum, a zoo or an aquarium. Before you go, read a book with your child about the sights at your destination. When you return, you and your child can write a journal entry about your adventures.
  5. Go outside. Embrace the nice weather and go on a hike, nature walk or bike ride. Pack a magnifying glass and/or binoculars, and take breaks along the way to take a closer look at things. You and your little one can even take notes on interesting objects or animals and look up more information about them online or in an encyclopedia when you get home.

Making Parent-Teacher Conferences Work

The home-to-school connection is crucial for a successful educational and developmental experience. “When parents and schools trust and collaborate with each other, children do better academically, behaviorally and socially,” says Kyle Pruett, M.D., child psychiatrist and advisor to The Goddard School. That connection includes ongoing communication with your child’s teachers and regularly scheduled parent-teacher conferences.  Use the following guidelines to get the most from the conferences and build a connection with the teachers.

Prepare for the meeting.
Write down your questions before the meeting to ensure you cover the most important information.

Share information with the teacher.
You know your child and family better than anyone else. Be willing to share what is happening at home, what your child’s interests are and what observations you have made.

Focus on your child.
Stay focused on what your child is learning and on developmental growth.  Don’t discuss other children, unless you want to mention that your child plays with another child outside of school.  Keep an open mind about any behavioral issues.  Work out solutions together, so your child has a consistent set of expectations at home and at school.

Ask about the program and what to expect.
Learn about the curriculum and what is coming up in the next few months. Find out how you can participate.  Ask the teacher about activities you can do at home to nurture and encourage learning. Share information about activities you do with your child at home.

Seek out opportunities to stay involved.
Before you leave the conference, ask the teacher how you can work together and what kind of opportunities the school has for parent involvement. Thank the teacher for her time.