Creating a Bedtime Routine for Your Child

Do you find yourself struggling with your child when bedtime approaches? If so, here are some tips for establishing a reliable bedtime routine:

 

Family BedtimeEssentially, a child’s evening schedule needs to be simple yet flexible so that in the even of a disruption, the basic routine can still be preserved. You could try something like this:

 

6:00 pm Dinner: Rather than indulging in caffeinated and sugary foods, encourage meals high in complex carbohydrates with a small amount of protein. Fruits such as apples, pears and bananas are always a favorite, while whole grain crackers, bread, and dairy- or soy-based products also help to promote great sleep. Read more

Encouraging Speech & Language Development in Infants and Toddlers

Mom reading to babyInfants immediately begin to learn from the environment around them after entering into our unfamiliar yet exciting world. The experiences they are exposed to and the people they encounter will ultimately help to shape them into the intelligent and independent children their parents hoped for. The importance of facilitating speech and language in young children is significant, and research has shown that early exposure is crucial to their development. Many parents therefore wonder what they can do to help elicit speech and language development at home, in order to help give their children every advantage possible.

Below are some simple suggestions and activities that can be easily incorporated throughout the day to help focus on these areas:

Reinforce communication by looking directly at your child when speaking and imitating them when they communicate, even if it is jargon!

• Teach animal and environmental sounds using motivating toys such as farm sets and cars.

• Talk about an activity while you are engaged in it (e.g. When cooking, talk about all of the steps and describe the ingredients).

• Point out everyday objects in the environment by expanding upon your language (e.g. When walking through the neighborhood, explain what is around you: “I see a tree. The tree is tall. The tree has green leaves.”, etc).

• Be a role model by using simple but grammatically correct speech for your child’s age.

• Associate sounds with objects around the house, as this is a precursor to phonics (e.g. The vacuum says “vvvvvv”.)

• Expand on your child’s speech and reiterate what they’ve said by modeling more complex sentences (e.g. If your child says “red car”, respond to them by saying, “You’re right, there is a big red car outside”.)

• Read books to increase comprehension and point to objects when named.

• Use preferred items to help promote language (e.g. If they have a favorite stuffed animal, use it to demonstrate brushing, dressing, bedtime routine etc).

• Use picture schedules and songs to facilitate smooth transitions (e.g. The “clean-up” song).

• Find time to communicate with your child without using technology.

• Provide choices throughout the day and reinforce successful communication.

• Have your older child expand on their utterances by having them tell you about their day (e.g. “Tell me what you did at camp today.” or “Tell me 3 things you saw at the park.”).

• Stay away from using only yes or no questions, as they do not always allow your child to formulate more descriptive sentences. Ask more specific questions when you can.

• Show your child that you are interested by listening attentively and engaging them during structured activities.

• Model appropriate behavior in social situations.

• Reinforce pretend play (e.g. cooking/kitchen sets, etc.).

• Participate in sensory-motor play (e.g. musical instruments).

• Supervise your child during play groups and encourage play-dates.

• Encourage sharing and turn taking during games and other structured activities.

• Allow your child to lead during motivating activities to give them a sense of independence.

• Expand social communication and story telling by participating in dramatic or symbolic play by “acting out” scenarios (e.g. feeding their dolls).

 

While the initial task may appear daunting and you may feel overwhelmed with trying to incorporate all of the activities into your daily routine, remember to start out slowly. Keep in mind that you may already be doing many of these activities without formally addressing them, so it may be simple to quickly add a few new behaviors to your routine. The key is to make these activities fun, so remember to expose your child to as much communicative interaction as possible throughout the day.

While parents know their children best, if something does not seem quite right, it may be advantageous to speak with a Speech-Language Pathologist about more specific activities that can further help your child. Just remember that every child is unique, and many variables may impact their own speech and language development. Follow typical developmental norms and milestones, and seek help if your child does not seem to be progressing at an appropriate rate.

Visual Calendars & Schedules: How They Benefit Your Child

Summertime brings about a more relaxed schedule that is filled with fun activities: camp, family vacations, trips to the water park. However, children with sensory processing difficulties or any anxiety tend to prefer a very predictable schedule and may feel uneasy during this time. When there is a change in routine or something new is thrown into the day, that element of predictability disappears, and the child can become anxious, upset and possibly act out as a result. He or she may not know what to expect and how to plan for new sensory experiences. After all, with each new activity comes a plethora of new sensory input such as sound, touch, movement, and sight. A visual calendar that identifies daily and weekly schedule changes can help children with sensory processing difficulties or children who have a hard time transitioning feel more comfortable with their summer routine.

Tips For Using A Visual Calendar Or Schedule With Your Child:

  • Use a calendar large enough to write down daily and weekly activities.
  • Review the calendar with your child daily so he knows what to expect for the day and for the weeks ahead. For example, “Today we will go to the beach. In 5 days, you will start camp.”
  • Cross off the days as they conclude and review what is on the schedule for the next day at bedtime, and again in the morning.
  • Be sure to include the first day of school on the calendar to indicate the end of summer.

For children with sensory processing concerns, thinking in the future can be very abstract and overwhelming. The visual calendar will be beneficial to make your child’s day to day and week to week schedule more concrete and help him or her be more organized.

Below is an example of a successful visual calendar:

Visual Calendar

Visual Calendar

Feel free to comment with how a visual calendar has helped your child!

Top 5 Pediatric Therapy Myths: Explored and Explained

Scared Girl

There are numerous misconceptions about pediatric therapy out there. I hear parents reporting to me all the time that they “heard from a friend,” or better yet, “saw on the internet” that developmental therapy does not work and that pediatric therapists “just keep kids in therapy” with no real improvement.

Below, I will address the 5 biggest myths out there regarding Pediatric Therapy:

Myth 1:   My child will “mature” and this will not be an issue.

I have heard this numerous times from parents about their children. Will the child “mature” and develop eventually? Sure, probably to some extent. My question back to them is: at what cost? What would be the consequences of not addressing the specific issues that the child demonstrates? How would these issues play out in school? Would the child be teased, bullied, or unable to progress to the best of his or her ability? There are obviously certain developmental stages that children reach at certain times, but some children develop at a slower rate than others . The goal of pediatric therapy is to enable these children to catch up with their peers and prevent later consequences. Additionally, research has demonstrated that the earlier the developmental issues are addressed, the better that child’s long term prognosis will be. Read more

Taking Off The Training Wheels

Trainig WheelsWarm weather is finally here and it’s a great time to gear up the family for bike riding.  Here are a few tips that will help ease the transition to a two-wheeler.

  1. First, make sure that the child’s bike is in good condition with properly inflated tires, working brakes, and that the seat is low enough that the child can stand on the ground when the bike is not in motion.
  2. A well adjusted helmet is essential for safety and some children may need elbow and knee pads for extra comfort and protection.
  3. The “run behind” method– where the parent follows the child holding underneath the bike seat to help them balance– is a proven technique for beginning the 2-wheeler process.
  4. Plenty of praise is essential and will keep your child motivated.
  5. The best way to teach your child to bike ride and enjoy overall fitness is to lead by example so plan some family bike riding outings today!

I would love to hear your Two Wheeler Success stories!

Raising an Independent Child

Childhood IndependenceIt’s summer time, the kiddos are out of school, and Independence Day is right around the corner!  It is the perfect time to help your children become more self-sufficient and confident by encouraging them to become more independent in their daily routines.

Where Childhood Independence Begins

Typically, children begin to demonstrate their independence by the age of two.  They may want to try everything by themselves and even act annoyed if you try to step in to help them.  This is perfectly normal and I encourage you to embrace this developmental milestone!

Bedtime should be the first area to be targeted when teaching your child independence.  Establishing a consistent bed time routine is a must.  Children should be sleeping in their beds independently.  They may still need reminders to stay in their room, but there are plenty of ways to work on getting this accomplished.  You can try giving them a signal of when they can leave their room (e.g., when the light comes up or when the clock looks like this: 7:00).  You can also keep a bin of toys in their room that they are allowed to play with in the morning.  It is very important to be aware of your reaction when they do get out of bed.  Firmly state the expectations (e.g., “Johnny, you need to stay in bed until the clock reads 7:00”) and guide them back to their room.  Do not provide eye contact or attempt to rationalize with them.  You may need to bring them back to their room several times over many days.  Don’t give up!  I promise it will get easier!

Read more

Secret Summer Tricks to Help Your Child Enjoy Reading

Kids reading in a fieldSummer can be a crazy time for families.   Kids are excited to be away from school work and educational activities, yet 30 minutes of reading a day is still recommended.  Reading can be reinforced through fun everyday summer activities.  Below are great tips to get you started!

Family reading activities (different activities for different ages):

  • Act out story after reading a book
  • Write grocery lists with your children before going grocery shopping
  • Play restaurant at lunch- create menus for the “customers” Read more

Homework Helper: Handwriting Checklist

Writing Checklist

 

Does your child have trouble writing essay’s, paper’s or even short stories? 

Below is a quick checklist to help you and your child keep their thoughts organized all while writting well! 

If your child is just learning to write, help them use the checklist by reading it to them as they work out their story.  If your child is older, have them checkoff each section themselves after they finish writing.  This Writing Checklist is a great tool to print out and keep at their “homework station”!

Read more

Why Can’t Johnny Sit Still? ADHD and How it Affects Your Child’s Classroom Behavior

 

A parent asked me this the other day:  She and the teachers were so frustrated with her son’s behavior.  It turns out that “Johnny”, as he is known in this blog, is a bright child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  Luckily for him, his parents, and his teachers, he is not alone and there are many well-validated interventions to get him to “sit still”. Johnny is just one of the estimated 8-10% of school aged children who have a diagnosis of ADHD.  The DSM-IV, which is the diagnostic manual for all mental health disorders, indicates that there are several symptoms of ADHD including:  inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.

Read more

Alternative Therapy: If it sounds too good to be true…. guess what?

Several weeks ago I attended a library lecture at which a gentleman was discussing his therapeutic company.  The individual was describing how his intervention can “miraculously improve” learning disabilities, ADHD, and Autism.  I found myself thinking, “Wow, this guys is good.”  And what I mean is that he was good at being a salesman.  Parents all too often are looking for a quick cure- an instant fix for whatever condition their children have.  We as clinicians all too often get mad at these parents for trying alternative therapies instead of what we know to be scientifically sound interventions.  However, who can seriously blame these parents?  They want the best for their children.  These parents desperately want their children to behave and appear like a neurotypical child.  They want quick fixes and lasting change. 

A relatively recent book, Snake Oil Science ,by R. Barker Bausell, explains the fallacy behind many alternative interventions.  In the book he explains how patients and physicians are often sold into the benefits of alternative therapies with no real rhyme or reason as to the proposed mechanisms for improvement.  Bausell’s main arguments against alternative interventions are two-fold: 

1) there is no explanation behind the reason for change and

2) the research behind the therapies is often quite lousy

This is a great read for any clinician who provides recommendations for parents or patients in general. 

Dr. Teri Hull wrote a blog article a few weeks ago describing the limitations of Developmental Vision Therapy as an intervention.  This is a touchy subject for many people, as there are numerous practitioners and patients who have either prescribed or benefited from vision therapy or some other alternative intervention.  I would admit that there are certain people who benefit from such interventions.  However, what we know from sound scientific research is that these studies do not benefit a sample at the population level.

I am curious as to everyone’s thoughts on alternative interventions.

What do you as parents think? 

Therapists who are reading this blog, what are your opinions? 

Do you ever refer parents to such alternative therapies? 

What have your results been?