Navigating Speech & Language Difficulties in the Classroom

The relationship between language skills and academic performance is well-documented by research. Speech and language skills are critical to successfully navigating the classroom, from following directions to verbally expressing ideas to building relationships with peers. For children with speech and language difficulties, these everyday occurrences can feel daunting, and at times, can become roadblocks to success.

Children with speech and language difficulties often require individualized assistance to succeed in a classroom setting. For teachers, this presents a challenge amidst very demanding schedules and class sizes of thirty or more students, each with varying needs. Any hand-tailored strategy can easily be applied in a one-on-one setting, but within an entire class of students, it’s not always so easy.

This blog is dedicated to teachers and educators, in hopes of offering practical strategies that can be readily incorporated into the classroom on any given day despite the rigorous demands of a school schedule. Natural opportunities to encourage speech and language are threaded throughout each day, and my hope is to shed light on these moments. Additionally, I hope to offer guidance in troubleshooting those more challenging moments, and in the end, see our students with speech and language difficulties thrive in the classroom setting.

Is it a Speech & Language Disorder? Discerning the Red Flags:

A handful of students in your classroom may already be identified as having a speech and language disorder. Other students, however, may remain undetected. Here are common red flags to identify speech and language difficulties within the classroom:

Speech Red Flags In The Classroom:

– difficulty following directions that are spoken or read

– difficulty comprehending a story that is spoken or read 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

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

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

Snow Day Do’s and Don’ts

When school is cancelled and you can’t make it to work, you have to come up with creative things to do with your children so you don’t all get cabin fever! Here are some ideas:

Children in the snow

Snow-Day Do’s:

  • Do start the day off writing a schedule of “Fun” things to do with your child.
  • Do give each child a chance to pick something they want to add to the schedule so they each feel like they have a say in the day and are excited for their choice!
  • Do play a board game.
  • Do go outside and make snowmen and snow angels.
  • Do bake some cookies that the kids can decorate!
  • Do an arts and crafts project using things around the house.
  • Do Have a dance party or play Dance Dance Revolution on you Wii.
  • Do For children ages 3-10, make a book: staple paper together and have your child dictate the story to you (or write it themselves depending on age). Then let them illustrate it!
  • Do make a picnic instead of your typical lunch. Set up a blanket on your playroom floor and pretend you are outside!
  • Do Use this day to have quality time with your children!

Snow-Day Don’ts:

  • Don’t plop yourself or your kids in front of the t.v. all day.
  • Don’t allow any nagging! Only smiles and fun suggestions!
  • Don’t try to work on your day off.
  • Don’t waste the day eating junk food and supplying it to your children.

…and one more  DO – Do leave a comment with your best ideas for when you are snowed in!

Preparing Siblings for a New Baby

boy with babyWhile you are busy trying to figure out what color room to paint, picking out the best crib, and preparing for the “big day,” you suddenly remember that you have another child at home that you have to help get ready for the arrival of the new baby.

Suddenly, you panic. You might, think, “How am I going to tell him/her? What am I going to say?”

Relax.  Being the older sibling can be amazing… you just need the right tools!

12 Tips To Help Prepare Siblings For A New Baby:

  1. One of the best ways to help a soon-to-be older sibling is to read books with them about being a big brother or sister. The visuals will help them to understand what to expect.
  2. Remind them what it’s like to be the new baby. Start off by showing the soon-to-be older sibling a picture of him in your tummy, immediately after he is born, taking his first bottle, etc.
  3. Be sure to let your little one lead the discussion. Encourage her to ask questions.
  4. Create a “job” schedule that they can do to help you with the baby (e.g. helping get the diapers when you need it, getting the bottle when the baby is crying). This will make them feel as if they are a part of the whole experience. Dolls and other “life-like” items can be used.
  5. Check out local classes at your nearby hospital. They often hold classes on preparing for a new baby and will have special classes for the brother or sister. They help your child understand what life is going to be like with a new baby, and your child will also develop appropriate social skills with other children their age.
  6. Before your new baby is born, ask another family member to help your child find a “big brother or big sister present.” Ideally, the present will be something meaningful to the older sibling (e.g. a shirt, blanket or stuffed animal). Read more

How to Get Your Child Interested In Reading

Sitting in a cozy spot, sipping hot chocolate, and reading a good book sounds like a perfect January activity to me. On the other hand, children who do not like to read might find this idea rather boring. While it can be intimidating for a child to sit down with a book, there are many alternative activities that are fun and enticing while still offering reading practice.

Fun Reading Activities:

• Many kids love playing on their parents’ electronic devices. Educational apps that enforce reading skills exist at a low cost:

A Great App for Beginning Readers: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/abc-pocketphonics-letter-sounds/id299342927?mt=8

A Sight Word App: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/see-read-say/id322313775?mt=8

• Have a family game night with board games that require reading to play (e.g. the cards in Sorry, Outburst Jr., etc.)

• Read simple instructions to cook a fun item or assemble a toy. You may need to create step-by-step instructions at your child’s reading level for them to read. Read more

Goals Are Not Just For New Year’s Resolutions, They Are For Kids Too!

Graduating girlWe create New Year’s resolutions because we want to make a big change in ourselves—but how do we get there? It’s all about breaking down that resolution into smaller steps! Your child can do this, too, and you might want to consider starting off the New Year with this conversation…

What are the benefits of creating goals for pre-teens and teenagers?

• Your children have been learning their health habits and establishing their lifestyle all based upon their life with you. As long as they still live under your roof, you have opportunities to set them up with good living habits.

• What you teach them now about making plans and following through will be beneficial to the development of responsibility for the rest of their life.

• When your child takes the steps necessary to achieve her goals, she is acquiring skills that lead to greater independence.

• The satisfaction that comes from being able to achieve a goal is a tremendous boost to self-esteem and happiness.

Tips for setting & achieving goals:

• Let them decide what they would like to achieve, and help them gather the tools to get there.

• All big goals should be broken down into small objectives. Make the small objectives achievable so that your child can jumpstart his/her plan successfully. Read more

Recognizing Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) at School: Tips for Teachers & Parents

How teachers can spot signs and symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in the classroom, and the important questions parents can ask them.

Girl washing hands

Obsesive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a very challenging disorder that can leave both children and their parents feeling confused, hopeless or out of control. Sometimes symptoms do not show up at school, as some children work very hard to keep it disguised due to fears of embarrassment. During periods of high demand and increased stress, however, it will become especially hard for those children to hide symptoms.

Some symptoms of OCD are very obvious and well-known, while others are not observable at all. Some are observed and are considered misbehavior. It can look like “acting out,” particularly when a symptom causes so much frustration that the child breaks rules in order to do what they feel they need to do.

OCD Behaviors To Watch Out For:

• Obsession with certain numbers, including counting, touching, saying or performing any ritual a certain number of times. This includes believing certain numbers are “magical” and avoiding certain numbers, objects, or places that are considered “unsafe”, “unlucky” or “bad” (e.g. ripping or scratching out certain pages/number items from homework and test papers).

• Rituals related to the use of desks, chairs, pages in books, lockers, supplies, etc. This includes avoiding or excessively checking any objects before using them.

• Visiting the bathroom too frequently (may involve performance of rituals related to hand washing or body waste). Also look for raw, chapped hands from constant washing. Read more