Gifted Children And What It Means To Be Advanced

gifted childI was asked to write a blog on giftedness in children – specifically, how to access it and how to ensure that a child with cognitive strength is able to reach his or her potential. This has proven to be a hard topic to write about. I don’t like the term “giftedness” for several reasons, but before I divulge those, I need to discuss what it means to be “gifted.”

A quick review of basic statistics is necessary in order to understand how we assess children has demonstrating superior ability. Traditionally, when we think of giftedness, we are thinking of a child’s IQ score. The vast majority of IQ scores used standard scores. A standard score is a statistical term in which a score of 100 is solidly average (50th percentile) and a standard deviation (the spread of scores from the mean of 100) of 15. In layman terms, scores between 85-115 are considered to be average.

When you are talking about giftedness, we see scores with at least two standard deviations greater than the mean (meaning an IQ score of 130 or higher). So, gifted children are those children that have IQ scores of 130 or higher. Pretty easy to identify, right? Wrong. One of my major critiques of giftedness is that parents and some academic folk rely way too much on the overall IQ score to determine if a child is gifted.

What Are IQ Measurements For Children?

The current gold-standard IQ measure, the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Fourth Edition (WISC-IV) came out in 2003. On the WISC-IV, children attain a Full Scale IQ score, which is comprised of several factors: verbal reasoning and comprehension, nonverbal reasoning, immediate attention and memory, and processing speed. Here lies one of the concerns in assessing giftedness. Which score should one use? Read more

Speech & Language Development in Twins

Twin BabiesAccording to the 2006 National Vital Statistics Report, about 32 twins are born per 1,000 births in the United States. For expecting parents, the prospect of twins can be incredibly exciting. But it can also be just as overwhelming, with double the responsibility and half the time. Raising twins differs from raising singletons in several ways, requiring parents to carefully plan and prepare. Knowing what to expect can reduce anxiety and empower parents to handle their new role with double the confidence.

Are twins more likely to be delayed in Speech?

Studies have documented that twins are more likely to demonstrate delays in speech and language skills, with males typically showing a six-month greater lag than females (Lewis & Thompson, 1992). However, studies have also documented that twins typically catch up in their speech and language development by three to four years of age (Lewis & Thompson, 1992). Language delays are typically characterized by immature verbal skills, shorter utterance lengths, and less overall verbal attempts.

There are several possible causes for speech and language delays in twins, including unique perinatal and environmental factors. For example, premature birth and low birth weight are more common among twins than singletons (Bowen, 1999). Additionally, twins may receive less one-to-one interaction time with their caregiver, as both infants are competing for time and care.

Although it is more common for twins to be delayed in language development, there is danger in assuming that they will catch up down the road. Twins who have true speech-language disorders may not catch up, and will benefit greatly from direct intervention. If you are concerned about your twins’ speech-language development, it is best to seek guidance from a licensed speech-language pathologist.

Do twins have their own language?

“Twin language”, often called idioglossia or autonomous language, is a well documented phenomenon among twins. One study found twin language to occur in 40 percent of twin pairs (Lewis & Thompson, 1992). Read more

10 Tips To Get Your Students To Sit Quietly In Class/Circle Time

Girl Sitting LearningIt can be hard to get children to sit still in circle time or at a desk. Ideally, we can take the time to see why a child may be having trouble. For those that are young, fidgety or distracted, we need to know they are not doing it to bother us, and we need to have strategies to help them be more attentive. Remember, some children can sit still longer than others. Others children need to fidget or move because their nervous systems just are made that way.

Here are some ideas and strategies for assisting restless kids:

#1-Use a visual cue. For example, if the teacher is reading Spot, the children can hold beanbags, and every time the teacher says Spot’s name, the children have to toss the beanbag into the bucket. This keeps him attentive!

#2-Use carpet squares or bean bag chairs. Space the kids out so they are not on top of each other!

#3-Some kids can not sit unsupported (and unless you are super strong in your core, you can’t, either!). Make sure you identify these kids, and lean them against the wall, let them lie down, or give them a chair with feet on the ground.!

#4-Have the kids stand up, sit down, get involved with the story, and listen for some name or place in the story to stay attentive.

#5-Use a checklist so that kids follow and check off as things are said or done.

#6-Use multi-sensory teaching strategies. March around while doing multiplication tables, have the children stand up while speaking, and develop fun routines during the day to that will get the kids moving around. Read more

Tips For Getting Your Toddler Out The Door

toddler by the doorYour child may have difficulties getting out the door for a number of reasons. For example, transitions from one activity to the next may be a problem. Other children may engage in problematic behaviors to avoid a non-preferred activity, acquire access to a preferred activity, or escape transitioning from a preferred activity to a non-preferred activity.

The following are some strategies that may help in getting your toddler out the door. However, identifying the reasons for difficulty is important in making a treatment decision and should not be overlooked.

STRATEGIES TO USE FOR GETTING YOUR CHILD OUT THE DOOR:

• Provide advance notice of an upcoming change in tasks (i.e. a two-minute warning). This could help in reducing “anxiety” related to transitions.

• Use visual schedules to communicate transitions between activities to decrease problem behavior.

• Deliver positive reinforcement if your toddler follows the schedule or completes the transition without any problem behaviors. Some examples of reinforcers (i.e. what increases the occurrence of a behavior) may be praise, food items, breaks and activities. Every child is different, so their reinforcers may be different as well. Figure out what your child prefers and use this to your advantage in increasing compliance with their and transitions.

• Use graduated prompting to help your toddler transition:
-Use a hand-over-hand prompting procedure to physically guide compliance to the transition, regardless of the problem behavior. Read more

Helping Kids Handle Aggression

Aggressive behavior needs serious attention soon after it occurs. It may be predictive of more serious disruptivemad boy behavior disorders in later phases of development. Mental health professionals consider disruptive behavior a disorder when the behaviors are frequent and intense, reaching a level that negatively impacts a child’s social, academic, or interpersonal worlds.

Since disruptive behavior seen in the preschool and grade school years can predict serious health and behavioral problems in adolescence, it is highly recommended that you intervene as early as possible.

How Parents Can Help With Childhood Aggression:

  • Participate in parent training with a qualified behavior therapist to learn new techniques for behavior management
  • Read behavior management manuals suggested by professionals, such as Families (Patterson, 1971)  and Living with Children (Patterson & Gullion, 1968)
  • Pay attention to and reward appropriate behavior. Ignore minor offenses.
  • Model and role play alternatives to aggression with your child. Create a story line with characters they prefer, and set up hypothetical situations. Prompt them to practice healthy emotional expression and solve the problems you are presenting in positive ways.  Read more

Arts and Craft Ideas To Improve Fine and Gross Motor Skills

toddler coloringToddlers learn about their world by using their senses, manipulating objects and experimenting.  Toddlerhood is marked by an explosion of development in all areas, including fine motor skills, or “hand skills”.  One fun way to promote fine motor skills every day (and on Valentine’s Day in particular) is through crafts!

Here is a short, craft-friendly guide to fine motor milestones:

  • Scribbling and making horizontal or vertical lines – 2 years old
  • Squeezing out glue – 2 years old (though squeezing out an appropriate amount of glue is a skill that will not develop until much later!)
  • Snipping with scissors – 2 ½ years old (with constant supervision!)
  • Drawing circles and a rough cross – 3 years old
  • Stringing large beads – 3 years old
  • Cutting on a line – 3 ½ years old

Unless you are hoping for updated living room walls, your toddler will need constant supervision, direction and demonstration throughout all of these projects.  When these tasks are completed, everyone’s heart will be warmed when you see your child beaming with pride at what has been created.

A few fun and simple craft projects to try with your toddler this Valentine’s Day:

  • Make a valentine for family members, classmates, or neighbors.  Young toddlers will be satisfied with simple tools such as finger paints or crayons.  Older children may want to add glitter, stamps, or stickers. Read more

Building Social Skills Through Play Dates

two kids playingYou worked diligently planning for today’s play date: abook to get things started, a seasonal craft to tie in education, and a creative snack to conclude the day.  Last you checked, breaking up a scuffle and mopping juice box puddles off the floor weren’t on the list.  So what went wrong?

Planning a play date can be overwhelming at times.  We want things to go as planned and, above all, we want our child to make friends.  Building friendships involves an array of skills, including initiating interactions, taking turns, being flexible, asking questions, and negotiating.  For children with language difficulties, these skills can often be challenging.  So how can we help them succeed?

Strategies to help your child navigate peer interactions during a play date:

  • Talk to your child ahead of time about their upcoming play date.  Discuss who is coming over and what is going to happen.  Include concepts such as taking turns, sharing, or being a good friend.  If possible, show your child a picture of their peer as you discuss. Read more

The Key(s) to Successful Time-Outs

Parents and teachers are always on the lookout for new techniques to decrease inappropriate behaviors. If used correctly, the age-old time-out procedure can be the most effective tool in teaching your kiddo to behave. The following strategies will help you clean up the time-out process and make it effective for your children.

Time-Out Strategies

  • Attempt to identify what your child is trying to communicate through their behavior and provide interventions based on the results. Typically, most behaviors are exhibited in order to gain or avoid something in the environment. For example, a child may bite other children because he/she does not have the language to ask for a toy.
  • Follow the “Three Cs” law – the household rules should be clear, concise, and consistent. Pick one or two rules to focus on and make sure they are visibly posted using pictures or words. Children should know exactly what they did in order to receive a time–out, and parents are responsible for making sure that they implement a time-out every time the behavior occurs. Read more

All You Need To Know About Learning Disabilities

How common are Learning Disabilities?

LD Boy

Learning concerns are one the most common neurological issues that children and adolescents present with. It has been estimated that approximately 20% of the general population in the prevalence rates indicate that 6% of the general population meet the necessary diagnostic criteria for a diagnosis of a specific learning disorder.

How are Learning Disabilities Defined?

There is great debate regarding how to accurate define, classify, and diagnosis learning disorders. Traditionally, it was assumed that a specific learning disorder exists when there is a significant discrepancy between a child’s ability (IQ, cognitive functioning) and achievement (performance on standardized reading, mathematics, and written expression tasks). However, there have been recent changes within the USA regarding how to classify and diagnosis learning disabilities. Currently, categorization of a child’s learning disability is based upon a multi-tiered process involving early identification and intervention. This multi-tiered process based approach is labeled Response to Intervention (RTI).

What are the Pros and Cons of RTI?

Researchers who are in favor of the RTI Model of learning disabilities argue that a combination of interviewing and behavioral observations are sufficient for identification of problems as well as to determine appropriate interventions. The RTI Model is most beneficial for children who have emotional or behavioral disorders that result secondary from a defined environmental factor, such as: inappropriate or inconsistent reinforcement or punishment. Read more

Sleep Disorders in Children

sleeping childMost families think of nighttime as a period of respite from daily activities of their children, a chance to reconnect with their spouse, relax and unwind. However, for families who are dealing with sleep issues in their children, nighttime is often one of the most difficult and challenging times of their day. Children who have difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep or disorders that disrupt the quality/quantity of their sleep end up with families who are also tired and miserable. Thus, promoting healthy sleep habits and effectively treating sleep disorders in children is often one of the best ways to improve a family’s overall quality of life.

Effects of Sleep Disorders in Children

With the advent of physiological procedures for evaluating sleep, we have gained a better understanding of the role of sleep in children. While children suffer from several of the same issues that effect adults (sleep apnea, restless legs, circadian rhythm disorders and insomnia), the causes and treatments of these conditions in children are often quite different. In addition, the daytime effects of disordered sleep in children are quite different from adults. For example, sleep disordered breathing such as apnea and chronic snoring lead to daytime fatigue in adults at rates of over 80%. However, in children, these same conditions lead to behavioral problems (45%), ADHD-like symptoms (50%) and mild learning difficulties (35%). In fact, reported daytime fatigue occurs only about 11% of the time in children.

Common Sleep Disorders in Children

There are several common sleep problems in children. These include onset and maintenance insomnia, sleep disordered breathing, movement disorders, bedwetting, and night terrors. While this list is by no means exhaustive, it does highlight the common problems parents report to pediatricians and health care professionals.

Childhood Insomnia

Insomnia is generally characterized as primary (in isolation) or secondary (due to another medical or mental health condition) and as onset (inability to get to sleep) or maintenance (inability to stay asleep). My general belief is that children can fall asleep anywhere and anytime the need strikes. So, when families are reporting insomnia, my first concern is to rule out any systemic problems in the family that may interfere with bedtime routines and sleep habits Read more