Milestones for Kid’s Success

Active BabyHow do we identify the milestones our kids need to succeed? How fast should your child be developing mentally and physically? Does every child develop on their own schedule or should you compare your child to the “norm”?

Milestones are important to be aware of because if children are not in the general range of normal or typical development, parents need to be proactive and start asking questions.

7 Steps to Measuring Milestones and Making Sure Your Child Is On The Right Track:

1) Use a check list and log your child’s new skills.

2) Make a separate checklist of areas you may feel your child is behind on.

3) Read well-respected parenting blogs and articles by licensed professionals to stay on top of what your child should be doing

4) Read E-Books and Popular Publications that include Milestone Checklists and Guides For Parents and Doctors

5) If your child is delayed in a developmental area, move on it quickly. Better safe than sorry.

6) Make a visit to your MD and tell him/her your concerns.

7) Visit the necessary specialists and find someone you can trust and do what you need to do.

Always trust your instincts as the parent and remain proactive!

Bullying: How To Know It’s Happening And What To Do About It

Bully Pointing And Laughing At BoyName Calling Just As Harmful as Physical Abuse

We all can probably name the “school bully” (or bullies) from our childhood. Bullying is not a new challenge for children, but it should not be dismissed as simply a part of growing up. Bullying is a serious issue of abuse that can be emotional, verbal, physical, or some combination of the three. All three forms of bullying can be devastating to children. The old adage of “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me,” is simply not true. The March/April issue of the Journal of Child Development features a study conducted at UCLA that determined verbal abuse happens twice as often as physical abuse and “the students who were beat up and those who were called names were equally bothered.” Today, we have an additional form of bullying: cyber bullying, which, takes bullying to a whole new level. Read more

Day Camp and Overnight Camp: Survival Guide for Parents and Campers

It’s summertime: warm weather, freedom from homework, and great summer camp experiences. Camp is an amazing opportunity for kids to learn independence and responsibility. When we go to “family camp” in the Wisconsin Dells each year, my husband and I challenge our kids and say that camp is about trying new things, even if they seem scary (my almost six year-old tried a zipline for the first time this year).

The Benefits Of Overnight and Day Camp: camp signs

Children meet new friends at camp and learn self-confidence along the way. At overnight camp, they also learn about responsibility and how to take care of themselves! But, summer camp may not be an easy transition for all kids (and their parents).

Avoid Homesickness by Staying Positive and Following Camp Rules.

Parents play an integral part in their child’s adjustment to camp. If parents are anxious about sending kids to camp, kids will pick up on that and they will then feel anxious.

Some Camp DOs and DON’Ts:

  • DO stay positive about camp. Focus on all the incredible experiences your child will have at camp.
  • DO look at the camp website together to see the smiling faces of past campers. Research all the available activities and help your child learn what his day will look like.
  • DO visit the camp together before the first day.
  • DO participate in pre-camp activities offered by the camp to meet other campers. Having a familiar face can make all the difference.
  • DON’T tell your child that you’ll have a difficult time without him being home. This can make your child feel guilty that he is leaving you and that you can’t survive without him.
  • DO allow him to enjoy this amazing experience.
  • DO follow the visitation rules the camp has created, whether it’s day camp or overnight camp. Kids need time to adjust to camp and they do best when they can adjust with their fellow camp friends.
  • DON’T show up at camp unless the camp allows a visitors’ day. When parents arrive while children are trying to adjust, it will inevitably lead to the child wanting to bolt out of the new environment and retreat back to the comforts of home.
  • DON’T tell your child that if she doesn’t like camp, she can call you and you will pick her up. That speaks to your own anxiety about her being away from you at camp. If kids don’t know that leaving is an option, they will learn to acclimate to their new surroundings and be able to fully enjoy themselves.
  • DO make sure that a letter (or email, if allowed) arrives when your child arrives at overnight camp. This lets your child know that you are thinking about him. But, make sure to stay positive in your letter. Ask questions about the kids in your child’s cabin, favorite activities, and what he is excited to try at camp.
  • DO talk with other parents about their experiences and how they survived (the kids will be fine).

 

Encouraging Your Child To Talk About Their Day

Why won’t my child share more Information? mom and daughter talking

One of the most common things I hear from parents is the desire to hear about their child’s day. Whether at camp, a play-date, or a day at school, we’re anxious to hear all about it!

“So how was school today?” It seems simple enough. For children with language difficulties, however, sharing events from the day can be quite a challenge for several reasons.

Telling others about our day requires integrating several complex skills, such as remembering the details from the day, sequencing the events in the correct order, and forming sentences to describe each event in the past tense. For children with speech and language difficulties, these are no small tasks. When I ask kids what they did at school today, I am often met with responses such as “good”, or “I don’t remember” or, most commonly, “nothing”.

Tips to help your child talk about their day:

Avoid asking challenging questions during transitions. For children with speech and language difficulties (or anyone for that matter), it’s far more difficult to talk during transitions or while multitasking (e.g. walking in the Read more

Dealing with Avoidance Behaviors in Preschoolers

anxious boyThe preschool years are an amazing time in children’s lives. They have already learned many skills in their first few years and feel like they are on top of the world. They are at the age of “I can do it myself.”

At this age, children are egocentric and believe that everything in the world revolves around them. For instance, if you ask a preschooler what to get Daddy for Father’s Day, she may answer with a gift that she would like: “Legos! A Doll! Dora The Explorer!” It’s not her intention to be hurtful, of course – it’s just where she is functioning developmentally.

The Preschooler Wants The Best Of Both Worlds

In their quest for independence, preschoolers will be torn between wanting to be a baby and wanting to be a big kid. Babies get lots of attention because they need Mom or Dad’s help with everything. Preschoolers like that attention and thus may regress to “I need help” when they previously did a task independently. They want to do “big kid” things, but because their imaginations are thriving, they can also create scenarios in their minds that make ordinary events seem more scary to them. Therefore, they may try to avoid certain activities either because they feel they will miss out on time with Mom or Dad at home (attention) or because they fear that something bad could happen to them when they try a new adventure.

This could lead preschoolers to refuse to go on play dates independently, say they are sick and can’t go to school or camp, or simply refuse to get ready for any of these exciting “big kid” opportunities. Parents can confront these avoidance behaviors with some careful phrasing, active listening, and allowing their preschool-age children to exert their independence by making good choices for themselves whenever a choice is possible.

How to Confront Avoidance Behaviors:

As parents, we always want to know why a behavior is occurring, but…

1) Resist the temptation to ask preschoolers “why” they are exhibiting the particular avoidance behavior (e.g. don’t ask, “Why don’t you want to go to school?”). Young children will inevitably answer that question with “I don’t know”, which will inevitably frustrate parents.

2) Try talking with preschoolers about what they think about when they imagine going to school, camp, play dates, etc. You may be surprised to learn that your child is thinking about what you’ll be doing (in other words, what he or she will be missing out on) while the child is on this new adventure. It may not be that she doesn’t want to go, but rather that she can’t relax enough to allow herself to have a good time. Read more

How To Motivate Children With Autism Using Reinforcers

Reinforcer SetA common difference between children with autism and typically-developing children is their motivation for social feedback and other natural consequences that occur for learning to take place. Typically, developing children have an easier time learning because they are motivated by social feedback from their parents and teachers. But with a child with autism, it is not always as simple as saying “great job!” to encourage learning. Without motivation, it can be very difficult to gain the attention of an autistic child, and even more difficult for learning to take place.

So, how do you motivate a child diagnosed with autism?

Reinforcers Can Help Motivate Children!

Reinforcers motivate children to learn new skills. Often times, children with autism are not readily motivated by social feedback or other natural consequences received from parents, teachers or peers. Insensitivity to social consequences and signals is a core aspect of the disorder.

How To Find A Powerful Reinforcer: Read more

Quick Tips For A Smoother Transition Into A Summer Schedule

Fun Family SummerMany children perform best when they follow a schedule and have a consistent routine. School is coming to an end and summer is approaching, which also translates to a less structured schedule and, potentially, a less productive day. Here are a few suggestions to make the most out of your summer routine:

Visual Schedules:

• At school, many children follow a picture schedule that lets them know what activities they will be participating in that day. Summer is a great time to let kids be kids and allow them to learn through play and gain independence while choosing what toys and activities they want to do on a daily basis. If your child craves predictability and struggles with transitions, try making a summer picture book. Take pictures of your child’s toys, games, books, and places they enjoy playing (backyard, park, pool, etc.) and allow them to create their own plan for the day.

Play Dates:

• Play dates with peers are a great summertime activity. Be sure to swap information with the parents of your child’s friends at school before the end of the year. Children learn a lot through playing together, including skills such as negotiating, compromise, taking turns, communication and imaginative play. Read more

An Introduction on Interventions for Executive Functioning

As discussed in my previous blog “What is Executive Functioning”, executive functions are the skills that help organize and guide a child through daily life.
There are many aspects of executive functioning:

  • Organization

  • Planning

  • Problem solving

  • Working memory

  • Initiation of tasks

  • Impulse control

  • The ability to monitor the effectiveness of one’s work

While these are different skill sets that require various accommodations and interventions, they all have several things in common.  The most common link between the various interventions is that they must involve a real-world, structured approach to teaching problem solving during everyday activities. The problem that we see all too often with clinical interventions, which don’t include practice in the child’s ‘real-world,’ is that the child may be a rock-star when completing tasks in a contrived clinical setting but still may struggle within the classroom. Read more

Basic Principles and Practices for Teaching Children With Autism New Skills

Teaching new skills to children with autism can be very difficult. It is important to first understand the fundamentals of behavior.

Behavior is an important part of teaching because in order to learn a new skill, a child must understand what response is desired and when. A child learns when a response is desired by experiencing a stimulus (i.e. item/request/instruction) and discrimination (Sd- discriminative stimulus).  A child simultaneously learns there is a desired response and discriminates that the response is only desired in the presence of the Sd. For example, if you are teaching a child to say “book” in the presence of a book, the Sd would be the book itself and the desired response would be saying “book.” That child will learn to say “book” only when that book is present. Later on, that child may begin saying “book” in the presence of new books, a pattern called generalization.

So, why is behavior important in teaching a new skill? It is important because a child’s response IS a behavior!

 Descriptions Of Behaviors:

Reflexive Behavior is our bodies’ natural reaction to environmental stimuli (e.g. blinking when someone blows in your eyes, or jerking your leg when someone hits your knee cap). These behaviors are called reflexes and occur without being learned. Read more

Why Does My Child Need a Diagnosis?

-“I don’t want to label my child.”

-“Teachers are biased against diagnosed children.”

-“My son doesn’t act like most kids with _________ (particular diagnosis).”

 

These are statements that I hear on a routine basis, and they are all valid points. Any diagnosis that a child or adolescent may have carries a certain stigma to it. This is human nature. As a neuropsychologist, one of my biggest tasks is to develop the most appropriate and effective diagnosis for any child. My goal with writing this blog is to help identify the importance of an appropriate diagnosis.

How A Diagnosis Can Help Your Child:

First and foremost, an appropriate diagnosis will help explain and answer the “why” questions. Why does my child continue to struggle to read? Why is it impossible for my child to sit still? Why is it that my child cannot make friends? Once we identify the “whys,” we are on our way to solving the problems.  An appropriate diagnosis is intended to help develop the most effective means of intervention. If I diagnosis a child with Dyslexia, I know that traditional teaching of reading and phonics wouldn’t do much good. I would know instead to utilize an empirical approach consistent with the disorder at hand. Read more