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

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

Is Toe Walking Normal?

child on tiptoe.It is not uncommon for toddlers to walk on their toes or on the balls of their feet. This practice is often referred to as toe walking, a hereditary condition that may be seen when a child is learning how to walk. It is considered appropriate until the age of two, but if your child continues to toe walk beyond this point, it is important to have him/her evaluated by a physical or occupational therapist.

Toe walking is a common sensory-seeking behavior – children receive intense proprioceptive input to the calf muscle in their legs when they do it. This intensified input helps them to better prepare their bodies for play and learning. However, toe walking may be a sign of other sensory integrative difficulties and should be evaluated by an occupational therapist if accompanied by other symptoms (e.g. decreased eye contact, decreased coordination, or difficulty with gross or fine motor activities).

If your child toe walks occasionally, it may be a sign of a sensory issue. However, a child who consistently toe walks may eventually develop shortened Achilles Tendons (also known as tight heel cords) and should be evaluated by a physical therapist.

Toe walking may be considered appropriate if:

• Your child is just learning to walk

• Your child is under the age of two years old

• Your child can walk with normal gait when you ask them to

Seek professional help for Toe Walking when:

• Your child toe walks past the age of two years old

• Your child toe walks the majority of the time

• Your child demonstrates decreased eye contact, decreased coordination, or difficulty with gross or fine motor activities

Saying ‘No’ To Your Child!

Everyone has to learn to live within limits, and it is best when children learn it young. Accepting ‘no’ as an answer teaches children the valuable skill of denying access to achild with "no" sign reinforcer. This is also known as ‘contentment.’ Oftentimes a child develops problem behavior that has been maintained by a history of obtaining preferred items or activities. They may have many manipulative techniques to challenge a ‘no’ answer, including screaming, biting, bolting, flopping and self-injury. If you see these behaviors in your kids, the following DOs and DON’Ts will be of some assistance.

What not to do if the child emits problem behavior when told ‘no’

•Do NOT Give your child what s/he wants

•Do NOT Negotiate with your child

•Do NOT Offer other items

•Do NOT Attend to the problem behavior

If you are doing any of these things, your child will likely continue to react negatively when told ‘no.’

What to do when your child does not obey the ‘no’

• Do Practice! Practice! Practice!

•Do Begin with less preferred items/activities and when the child asks for it, say “no”

  • Make the task easy at first so the child can experience the reinforcer and be successful
  • When the child can accept no for less preferred items/activities, gradually move on to more preferred items/activities. Read more

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

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

Cyber Bullying | How to make sure it doesn’t happen to your child!

Recent media events have highlighted the issue of bullying. A Rutgers University student, for example, committed suicide a few weeks back due to being bullied over the Internet (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/29/dharun-revi-molly-wei-charged_n_743539.html ).Cyber Bullying Girl Crying

Bullying is nothing new. Older movies such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Pretty in Pink, and The Breakfast Club have all featured some form of bullying behavior. The key difference between bullying in the past and present, however, is in the level of anonymity – changes in technology have made bullying much more anonymous over time. Almost every child is on Facebook these days. Anyone can create an account, and the identifying information as to who “owns” the account can often be limited. The impact of cyber bullying has lead to a great deal of emotional harm as well as actual physical harm, as shown by cases like that of the Rutgers University student.

Tips to help decrease the likelihood of your child being “cyber bullied”:

1. You must closely monitor your child’s computer face time. Have a central location for the family’s computer. Keep it in a den or office room that is accessible for all family members.

2. Social media tools, such as Facebook, can serve as a great avenue for social relationships. They are not necessarily a bad thing, and you should not have your children completely avoid such avenues of socialization. However, if your child is using Facebook, it is imperative that you know your child’s login and password. Let your child know that you will be monitoring the Web site to ensure that nothing dangerous is there.

3. If your child is going to be on the site, you must be on the site yourself. Also, one requirement that you would have for your child is that he or she must be your “Facebook friend.” This way you can monitor what information he or she puts on the Web site and what information people are leaving for him or her.

4. If you suspect that someone is bullying your child, the first thing you should do is click the “Report this person” link on that person’s profile screen. This is done anonymously and will lead to an investigation to determine if that individual’s Facebook page should be censured. Also, ask your child to “de-friend” the person and find out what the situation with the bullying was about.

Bullying has always been around and likely will always be around in some format. With the changing of the times and vast improvements in technology, bullying can now be done anonymously and on the Web. Parents, you need not shelter your children from new technological advances; however, you must take these advances into account when you decide howyou monitor your children.