When Should You Hold Your Child Back A Grade?

Many parents are often worried and cautious about their child’s transition from kindergarten to first grade. There are unanswered kindergarten kidsquestions and concerns that the child faces. Oftentimes it may prove beneficial for the child to repeat kindergarten and have another year to develop pre-academic and social skills.

Questions that need to be kept in mind when deciding about holding the child back or moving him or her forward include:

  1. How is your child doing with learning basic academic skills? Is he or she learning all letters, letter sounds, numbers, etc? Is this an area that would need further guidance and assistance?
  2. How is the child doing socially and emotionally? Is your child able to transition readily from the house to the school environment? Does your child have friends and engage in appropriate play with others? How does your child deal with changes in routine?
  3. When is your child’s birthday? If it is a late birthday, holding him or her back might not be that major since he or she will not be much older than the rest of the class.
  4. What are the kindergarten teacher’s thoughts? She has the best opportunity to provide insight about your child’s learning styles and social functioning in comparison to same age peers.
  5. What are your thoughts as parent? Always remember that at the end of the day, you are your child’s best advocate.

Holding a child back in kindergarten is not the worst thing to possibly happen. The child has another year to mature and develop. In addition, the child is able to receive additional intervention and services in order to catch up with peers and ensure that first grade will be the utmost success. Remember, pay now or pay later. If things are pointing to next year being tough and him or her not being ready, don’t rush. It’s great to be mature for your grade.

Common Misconceptions about Augmentative and Alternative Communication

Many children who have an incredibly difficult time using spoken language will often learn to use other systems to augment their AACcommunication abilities. These other systems may include “high-tech” or speech-generating devices. They may also use “low-tech”, such as Picture Exchange Communication Systems, or PECS, in which a child gives his/her communicative partner a picture card to convey their wants and needs. Parents may have concerns about these augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems. As a result, they often wonder how they will be used to help their child’s specific set of strengths and abilities.

There are several common misconceptions about these AAC systems:

  1. “If my child uses AAC, he/she won’t learn to speak”:
    1. Research has shown that just the opposite of this statement is true. The use of PECS or other “high-tech” devices can actually help improve a child’s spoken language output. Use of these systems provides increased exposure to communication and can increase vocalizations and improve overall speech abilities. While the strongest research shows that early intervention is best, older children may still show signs of improvement.
  2. “These programs are not specific for my child”: Read more

How to Help with Homework

Homework time is one of the most difficult parts of a parent and child’s day, especially if your child has difficulty with the tasks Homework Helprequested of them. We are often asked how to give the help needed without “doing homework” for him/her. We understand, , that as a parent, you want your child to succeed in school; however, you don’t want to fight a battle every night watching your child struggle.

5 tips to make homework time a little easier:

  1. Remove all distractions: turn off electronics, clear the desk/table of extraneous items and provide enough light. It might also be helpful to provide a snack and ask them to use to restroom shortly before starting homework to minimize disruptions.
  2. Create a schedule: determine how much homework your child needs to complete that night. Allow your child to choose which activity he/she wishes to complete first, next and last. Choices are a great option to allow your child to retain some control during required activities. If a break is necessary mid-way through an activity, schedule that activity as well with a time allotment (e.g., “Okay, after your spelling words, you can have five minutes with your action figures before we start the math problems”). If your child would prefer a visual schedule, pictures can be utilized for the schedule instead of a written one.
  3. Make it fun: the best part about kids is that, in their world, everything is funny. Try practicing spelling words in funny voices. Use goofy items to count math problems. Practice handwriting with homemade mad-libs. Make up jokes and creative plays to practice new lessons. Emotions are contagious – if your child sees you having fun, they will too.
  4. Providing help: Children should never fail more than they succeed. In fact, they should succeed almost every time. If not, do what you can to make the task easier. Pick one aspect/goal for your child to focus on and you do the rest until they have mastered the task. For example, your child is required to write 10 sentences using new vocabulary words and both writing and sentence construction is very difficult for your child. Have him/her form ten sentences using a vocabulary word and have him/her say them aloud while YOU write them down. Once you have written the sentences, your child can copy your sentences by practicing their nice handwriting without the stress of making up a sentence. This will ultimately make homework time less stressful and boost a child’s sense of success and accomplishment, which are crucial to mental well-being.
  5. Use resources: Schools and libraries often have resources to provide suggestions for completing homework.

Remember, homework is an important tool that allows your child to keep up with their peers in the classroom; it should not be so time-consuming and difficult that it ultimately impacts you or your child’s home life and anxiety levels. If you have any questions, concerns or desire suggestions, feel free to contact us.

Warning Signs of a Learning Disability

Prevalence rates of Learning Disabilities have an average range of 2-10%. While we aware of the negative impact that learning learning disability girldisabilities may have on achievement, when identified early, your child can be given the opportunity to meet their potential.

Below are 7 signs that may suggest that further evaluation may be needed:

  1. Uneven delays in development that persist to school age
  2. Inconsistency in your child’s performance and retaining of information
  3. Your child seems to need extra time to process information, learn concepts and complete work.
  4. You notice an increasing, strong dislike for school
  5. Your child routinely avoids academic tasks
  6. There is a sudden drop in achievement or a consistent pattern of under-achievement
  7. You recognize a change from your child’s typical behavior or mood presentation (e.g. opposition, anger, sadness, anxiety, inattention or negative self-statements)

It is important to know that children with learning disabilities are not lazy. The opposite is more often the case; they are highly motivated and want to learn.

What can you do if you suspect learning difficulties?

  • Bring your concerns to your child’s teacher. Develop a plan that will implement interventions and monitor your child’s response.
  • If problems persist, request that an evaluation to be conducted. This evaluation can be done through the school, but it may take several months to complete. Parents may wish to seek a private evaluation for faster results.
  • Closely monitor the progress your child is making with any strategies that are put into place.
  • A final and very important point is to provide opportunities for your child to be successful everyday. This will help them feel a sense of mastery and achievement that all children require.

1.Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition, Text Revision. (2000). American Psychiatric Association: Washington, D.C.

What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy?

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) uses the scientific principles of learning and motivation in order to teach effectively. It focuses on theaba therapy idea that the consequences of what we do affect what we learn and what we will do in the future. ABA seeks to improve specific behaviors while demonstrating a reliable relationship between the procedures used as well as the change in that specific behavior. ABA uses positive reinforcement to increase more positive behaviors and social interactions and decrease inappropriate behaviors. Below are a list of some possible ABA teaching methods that may be used when receiving ABA therapy:

ABA Teaching Methods

  • Discrete Trial Training (DTT)
    • DTT teaches a skill by breaking it up into simplified, isolated tasks/steps. By breaking down tasks into short trials and using prompts, DTT uses the overall success rate of learning. DTT utilizes clear beginnings and ends to each trial with specific instructions and
      prompts. The trials are short, permitting several teaching trials and a number of learning opportunities to occur. In addition, using one-to-one teaching allows for individualized programming.
  • Verbal Behavior (VB)
    • VB training uses a structured and one-on-one type of teaching format. This training works to teach language to children by creating and developing connections between a word and its meaning. The following are a list of VB terms that are typically implemented:
      • Echoics occur when a speaker says something aloud and the listener repeats exactly what was said. For example, the therapist says, “Ball pit” and the child will repeat the same phrase, “Ball pit”.
      • Mands can be thought of as commands or demands, in which a person is commanding or demanding something. A mand typically results in the speaker obtaining the item that was spoken. For example, a child asking for a drink of water when he/she is thirsty and then receiving the drink.
      • Tacts can be thought of as labeling an object. When a child sees a dog and then verbally says the word “Dog”, he/she is emitting a tact.
      • Intraverbals are similar to a conversation:  A question is first asked and then an answer is provided.  For example, a therapist asks, “How are you?” and the child responds, “Good!”. Intraverbals can also involve filling in the blank. For example, the therapist says, “Twinkle twinkle little _____” and the child responds with “Star”.
  • Natural Environment Training (NET)
    • NET focuses on practicing and teaching skills within the situations that they would naturally happen. In these situations, the therapist uses naturally occurring opportunities to help children learn.  The therapist might provide a coloring page but withhold the crayons until the child requests them, giving the child an empty cup and waiting for him/her to request juice, or playing a board game but withholding the dice or spinner until the child requests it are all examples of using NET.
  • Pivotal Response Training (PRT)
    • PRT uses the natural environment for teaching opportunities and consequences. PRT focuses on increasing motivation by adding items like having the child make choices/selections, taking turns and providing reinforcement for attempts made.
  • Self-Management Training
    • Self-management training is used to help individuals increase their independence and generalization of skills without always requiring the help from a teacher or parent. This technique results in an individual being able to monitor their own behavior. The individual is taught to self-evaluate their behaviors, keep track and monitor their behaviors, and provide their own type of reinforcement.
  • Video Modeling
    • Video modeling uses repeated presentations of target behaviors so that there is not a lot of change between modeling the target behavior. Video modeling can assist individuals with working social skills, learning self-help/hygiene tasks, and understanding emotions, etc..

ABA therapy is implemented to ensure that each individual’s programs are tailored to that individual’s unique needs. Therapists will often use different assessments (i.e. functional assessment interviews, direct observations, ABLLS, VB-MAPP, etc.) to develop an ABA program that is the ideal match and addresses the individual’s specific needs.

Pragmatic Language: Building Social Skills for Your Child

What is pragmatic language? boy with truck

Pragmatic language refers to the communicative intent, rules and social aspects of language. It is the way in which language is used to communicate in a variety of different contexts, rather than the way language is structured. A major component of pragmatic language is being able to read the cues of the communication partner and following conversational rules.

How will I know if my child has a problem with pragmatic language?

Often times, children who demonstrate challenges regarding pragmatic language will have difficulties sharing, using appropriate eye contact, initiating and maintaining conversations and joining in during structured activities with peers. They may also present weaknesses when participating in “make believe” activities, have a limited variety of language that they use, have poor storytelling skills and prefer to play alone rather than with other children. Some children have trouble understanding emotions and feelings which may negatively impact their interactions with others. This may also lead to challenges with perspective taking (i.e. imagining how someone else feels).

A few ideas to facilitate pragmatic language skills at home:

  • Participate in pretend play activities with your child
  • Play simple games to encourage turn taking
  • Participate in group activities with peers
  • Create stories together
  • Practice making music with different instruments
  • Role play scenarios in which there are problems and solutions (i.e. finding a toy in a story, ordering food in a restaurant)
  • Allow your child to lead during motivating activities
  • Work on greetings with familiar people (i.e. mailman, family friend, grandparents)

Individualized treatment sessions help to encourage appropriate social awareness skills. Children benefit significantly from structured social group activities to help practice appropriate pragmatic language skills as well! For more information on ways to help encourage pragmatic language and social skills, please contact a licensed speech-language pathologist.

February Fun with Young Valentines

Cooking up Books with Blossom ~ a monthly series from Chef Blossom’s own heart cookingkitchen!

Valentines Books To Read:

Book: Pinkalicious
by Victoria Kann & Elizabeth Kann

Age: 5-8

Pinkalicious loves anything pink, especially pink cupcakes. One day, when over-eating these tempting delicacies, Pinkalicious discovers not everything in life turns up pink in the end. Enjoy the problem/solution trail of this delightful story, then bake up a batch of cupcakes (pink, of course) and decorate with sprinkles of pink or red in honor of our young protagonist.

Book: Where does Love Come From?
by Accord Publishing Illustrated by Milena Kirkov

Age: Preschool

Does love grow on trees? Wash up from the ocean? Discover love’s true home with the help of this whimsical, “see-through” picture book. Follow it up by baking heart- shaped pretzels with your favorite valentine.

Cooking Instructions:

Heart Shaped Soft Pretzels: Set oven to 400degrees
vegetable oil 2 cups flour
1pkg. yeast ½ tsp table salt
¾ cup warm water 1 egg
1Tbl sugar course salt

Cover cookie sheet with foil and coat lightly with vegetable oil. Sprinkle package of yeast onto warm water. Add sugar and stir. Let stand until mixture foams. Put flour and salt into a bowl. Add yeast mixture and stir until dough clumps together. Sprinkle flour onto countertop and knead dough until smooth. Roll pieces of dough into “ropes”, then shape into hearts on cookie sheet. Beat an egg with a fork and brush each pretzel. Sprinkle on the coarse salt and bake 15 minutes or till light brown. Cool, then munch together with love.

The following smoothies may also be used with either story above:

Strawberry Delight Smoothies:
1 banana 1 cup plain or strawberry yogurt
1 cup strawberries, washed and hulled ½ cup orange juice

Cut banana into pieces and put them into blender. Add strawberries, yogurt and orange juice. Blend until smooth. May garnish with whipped topping and strawberries, if desired.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Blossom, and all at NSPT!

Educational Graduate Gifts At Each Age

It’s that time of year!  Children are graduating and proud parents are celebrating this milestone.  Read on for special gift suggestions for graduates of all ages that also have educational value.

Educational and Fun Gifts for Your Grad By Age:

Kindergarten Graduation Gifts:

  • Special Books: Classic, hard-cover books will be fun to read in the moment and treasured as a keepsake for years to come.  Consider titles like Ferdinand, The Tale of Peter Rabbit or Paddington Bear.
  • Magna-Tiles: Consider investing in a set of Magna-Tiles.  These magnetic building tiles will occupy the imagination of your soon-to-be first grader for hours on a rainy day over the summer.
  • Lego Building Blocks: Legos have been around for a long time and for good reason.  Lego building sets engage young builders as they create predetermined buildings or design their own.

Junior High Graduation Gifts:

  • Special Books: Inspire your soon to be high school kid with a copy of Oh the Place You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss.
  • Educational Video Games:  You can’t tear your teen away from the Xbox360 or Wii, but at least you can inspire them with a game that will teach something.  Consider Civilization Revolution (Xbox360) or The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii).

High School Graduation Gifts:

Graduation is a wonderful accomplishment.  Celebrate your children with gifts that will continue to enrich them as they move to the next phase of  life!

What is Phonemic Awareness | Pediatric Therapy TV

In today’s Webisode, a pediatric speech therapist explains to our views what phonemic awareness is.

Watch our previous Webisode, when Elizabeth Galin, our academic specialist, explains how phonemic awareness is important as your child is getting ready to read

Today you will learn:

  • What are daily uses of phonemic awareness
  • How phonemic awareness develops as your child becomes older

7 Ways to Increase Phonological Awareness

Identifying different sounds that make words and associating these sounds within written words are an essential foundational child and mother speakingcomponent for early literacy skills.  There are forty-four phonemes (sounds) in the English language; this includes letter combinations such as /th/. In addition to identifying these sounds, one must be able to manipulate the sounds. This is often referred to as phonemic awareness. There are five levels of phonological awareness, ranging from rhyme to being able to switch or substitute the components in a single word. Phonological awareness affects early reading ability as well as strengthens  emerging reading skills.

How To Teach Phonological Awareness:

To teach phonological awareness, begin by demonstrating the relationship between parts to wholes. Start at sentence level; segment short sentences into individual words in order to show how the sentence is made up of words. This can be done by using chips to represent the different words in the sentence. Once this relationship is understood at the sentence level, you can then move on to word level. Begin by segmenting multi-syllabic words into two syllables, eventually moving to segmenting words into individual sounds. This will increase  phonemic awareness.  This can be achieved by asking the students to produce that sound, both in isolation as well as in a variety of words and syllables. It is best to begin with easy words and gradually progress to more challenging words.

7 Phonological Awareness Example Exercises:

  1. Rhyming (e.g., tell me all the words that rhyme with mop)
  2. Identifying initial sounds in words (e.g., does mop begin with the /m/?)
  3. Word to word matching (e.g., do pen and pipe begin with the same letter?)
  4. Phoneme deletion (e.g., what word would be left if the /k/ sound were taken away from cat?)
  5. Phoneme counting (e.g., how many sounds do you hear in the word “cake”?)
  6. Blending (e.g., what word would we have if we blended these sounds together: /m/ /o/ /p/.)
  7. Phoneme segmentation (e.g., what sounds do you hear in the word cat?)

Children should be demonstrating these skills by the end of their first year in grade school. By practicing these skills, you will be providing your child with greater success, therefore, increased confidence. Try one of these exercises today and watch your child blossom!