10 Easy Strategies to Boost Your Child’s Reading Comprehension

Reading is a critical skill for academic success.  Reading allows us to learn from texts and articles, gives us directions on homework assignments and class projects, and opens the world of books.  But what if your child is falling behind?  It might feel discouraging to learn that your child is struggling with reading comprehension.  Not only do you want your child to succeed, but you also want your child to enjoy reading.  There are many things parents can do to help.

10 practical strategies to improve your child’s reading comprehension:

  1. Ask “check-in” questions as your child reads.  Who is in the story so far?  What is the pig’s house made of?
  2. Encourage your child to monitor her own comprehension while she reads.  Do you understand the last sentence?  What’s happened in the story so far?
  3. Have your child reread challenging sentences.  Talk about the meaning.
  4. Encourage your child to restate challenging sentences in her own words.
  5. Help your child build the story as she reads.  Graphic organizers are great tools to use.  For example, make a “character wheel” by writing important traits about a particular character on each spoke.  Or fill in a worksheet that identifies the story’s main events, problem and solution.
  6. Have your child make predictions about the story as she is reading.  What do you think this story will be about?  What do you think will happen next?
  7. Encourage your child to write down challenging vocabulary words.  Have your child make flashcards of each word by drawing a picture of the word and writing the definition in her own words.  Practice using the new vocabulary words throughout the week.
  8. Encourage your child to summarize the story in her own words.  If this is hard, have her use her graphic organizer to recall specific events or details.
  9. Ask your child to identify the “main idea” of the story.  What is the story about?  Why do you think the author wrote it?  If you could give the story a new title, what would it be and why?
  10. Gradually encourage your child to use these strategies on her own.  As your child is more successful, take a step back.  If they have difficulty, help her decide what she can do to better understand the story.

Finally, make reading fun!  Choose material that is interesting to your child.  Keep in mind that reading is not limited to only books.  You might read a movie review from a film your child recently saw, or a recipe your child is excited to try.  Take your child to the bookstore and encourage her to choose a fun book to read before bed.  If you’re unsure what reading level is appropriate, ask your child’s teacher for the latest recommended books for your child’s age.

For more reading help, contact our Blossom Reading Center.

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Create a ‘Fidget’ to Help Your Child Focus This School Year

Markers. Crayons. Pencils. Book-bag. Pens. Glue. Ruler. Scissors. Calculator. Folders. Tennis Shoes. 3-Ring Binder. Notebooks. Etc. The “Back-to-School Checklist” seems to grow longer and longer each year. However, there is one useful item that often does not appear on this list which can help your child to stay focused throughout the ups and downs of the school day.   This item is known as a fidget.

As your child picks, pushes and squeezes his fidget, it will be provide his fingers, hands, and wrists with proprioceptive input. This input is extremely regulating for a lot of children, which can help them to stay focused during class.  Read on for simple instructions to make your own fidget at home.

Simple instructions to make your very own fidget:

  1. Encourage your child to choose his favorite colored balloon.
  2. Use a funnel to fill the balloon with rice or sand so that it is about the size of a baseball.
  3. Tie the balloon’s end into a knot.
  4. With markers, encourage your child to decorate his new fidget as desired. Read more

Build Your Child’s Vocabulary Through Salient Features

salient featuresLabeling an item and expecting your child to remember the word is not as easy as 1, 2, 3.  In order to map new words into your child’s lexicon (i.e., his/her word dictionary), particularly if he or she has a language disorder, teaching salient features is essential for word understanding, use, and retrieval.  The following are key salient features when teaching new vocabulary, maintaining previously learned words, and expanding vocabulary.

Key Salient Features:

  • Category: Including the category into which a word belongs helps organize the word into a group.  This then facilitates further thought about words that are related to the target vocabulary word. For example, a pencil belongs to school supplies.  What else belongs to school supplies?
  • Place Item is Found: Identifying a location where a word may be found allows your child to visualize the target word.  For example, a pencil can be found in a pencil cup or in a drawer at home and in a desk or backpack at school.  Avoid non-specific locations such as the store or at school, as many items are found there.
  • Function:  Talk about the purpose of the item.  For example, a pencil is used for writing.   Identifying this feature allows a child to connect a noun to an action. Read more

5 Ways to Help Your Pre-Writer Develop Her Pencil Grasp

Your child is constantly growing, learning, and developing motor skills that she will use later in life.  One of thesedeveloping pencil grasp important motor skills is her pencil grasp.  By the time your child is three and half, she should have developed the skills necessary to hold her pencil with her thumb and the pad of her index finger.  Below you will find 5 ways to help her develop this skill.

5 Tips for Helping Your Pre-Writer Develop Her Pencil Grip:

  1. Employ “The Alligator”: Have your child make her hand into an alligator’s mouth, as if her fingers and thumb form the teeth and lips.  This “puppet-like” shape will help your child to grab onto a pencil, crayon, or marker using the pads of her fingers.  Instruct your child to place the marker in the alligator’s teeth and to keep the alligator’s mouth (web space) open.
  2. Use Stickers:  Place 2 stickers near the tip of your child’s markers.  These stickers will serve as a visual cue for your child when she is picking up the marker.  This additional cue may help her to remember where to put her fingers and to use her thumb and pointer finger together.
  3. Keep Supplies Her Size:  Give your child various small supplies, such as short pencils (much like the ones you find at the mini-golf course), broken crayons, or short markers.  Since your child’s hands are much smaller than your own, giving them supplies that are just their size will make it easier for them to use a more refined grasp.
  4. Use Lacing Cards: Engaging your pre-writer in activities that don’t involve a pencil or paper can also help her to develop her grasping skills.  Pick up some lacing cards (you can also use cardboard and a hole puncher to make your own).  Encourage your child to hold a shoe-lace with her thumb and pad of index finger as she weaves it in and out of the holes.  This activity helps to develop her visual-motor skills that are so important for writing. Read more

Q and A: Gender Differences in ADHD

Recently we highlighted a study that suggested that diagnosis rates of ADHD differed in children of different races.  Today’s blog points out the differences in symptoms and diagnosis rates between genders. ADHD

Now, more than ever, researchers are uncovering tangible evidence to explain the differences in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms among boys and girls.  With accumulating data, we are better equipped to understand the neurobiology of these developing boys and girls, refine assessment, and focus on treatment.

Q & A | Gender Differences in ADHD:

Q: Are boys, in fact, more likely to have ADHD? 

A: The ratio of ADHD in boys to girls is relatively equal, with reliable reports ranging between 2:1 (CDC, 2011) and 1:1 (Froehlich, 2007).  To no surprise, however, boys continue to be disproportionately diagnosed at higher rates than girls (Bruchmuller, Margraf, & Schneider, 2011), likely due to their tendency to display more disruptive behaviors. Read more

How Fast Should My Child Be Reading?

Reading is fundamental to academic success. Children spend hours from preschool to third grade learning how to read. From third grade on, childrenreading speed spend hours reading to learn new subject material. As a Pediatric Speech Therapist, I’ve been asked the following question: My child is an accurate reader, but seems to read more slowly than his peers.  Should I be concerned?  For reference, Hasbrauck and Tindal (2006) published reading norms for grades 1-8. The following is a general rule for the number of accurately read words produced in a minute by a young reader by grade.

Reading Norms | Words Read per Minute by Grade:

  • By the end of Grade 1, your child should be reading approximately 53 words correctly per minute.
  • By the end of Grade 2, your child should be reading approximately 89 words correctly per minute.
  • By the end of Grade 3, your child should be reading approximately 107 words correctly per minute.
  • By the end of Grade 4, your child should be reading approximately 123 words correctly per minute. Read more

The Therapeutic Benefits of Music

Music can be an important part of children’s therapeutic activities! While some children will participate in Music musicTherapy, conducted by a trained Music Therapist, other children will experience music in their speech-language or occupational therapy sessions. Some families will find that music therapy is not often covered by insurance; however, music in therapy may be. When music is incorporated into existing speech-language or occupational therapy sessions, there are numerous benefits for children.

Speech-Language Benefits of Including Music in Therapy:

  • Promotes attention and engagement: Music is a great motivator! Children may be more motivated during sessions and may pay better attention. They may also demonstrate improved engagement with their clinicians during therapy sessions involving music.
  • Builds imitation: Music can help to develop both verbal (e.g. singing) and non-verbal (e.g. gesturing) skills.  Phrases with musical intonation are easier to imitate.
  • Enhances Skills: Frequent repetition in songs can increase vocabulary (e.g. singing Old McDonald Had a Farm to target animal names) and language skills.
  • Encourages peer interactions: Learning age-appropriate songs can help build social skills and strengthen peer interactions.
  • Increases carryover: Children may begin to associate songs they are learning in school, at home, and in therapy in a positive way! Parents can carryover skills learned in therapy as a fun and easy way to maximize their child’s potential at home. Read more

Creative Ways to Teach the Meaning of Independence Day to Children

Teach your children the meaning behind Independence Day and instill pride to be an American through these fun red, independence day white and blue activities. Through creating these crafts, you can talk with your child about Independence Day and why it is such an important holiday.

Meaningful Independence Day Crafts:

Trace Pictures of Famous Americans: Find pictures of Americans who have played an important role in our history and in the independence of America such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and others. You can use any picture from a book or print from the internet for this activity. For tracing, simply place tracing paper over the picture, and trace the outline of the person’s face. Include as much detail as you want.  Talk with your child about the person and their role in the founding of our country. Read more

Develop Executive Functioning Skills This Summer

Does your pre-teen have difficulty staying on task? Does he become overwhelmed when presented with a long-term project? Does he have a hard time controlling his emotions and behaviors? Is it a constant struggle for him to clean up his room? If so, your child may have difficulty with executive functioning. Executive functioning skills are the executive functionsfundamental brain-based skills required to execute tasks: getting organized, planning, initiating work, staying on task, controlling impulses, and regulating emotions.  These skills provide the foundation that all children need to negotiate the academic, home, and social demands of childhood.

Summertime is a great break from busy schedules overrun by homework, projects, and extracurricular activities, but the decreased structure can cause a child with executive functioning difficulties to lose the skills they have gained during the school year. Research has shown that practice is crucial in the development of executive functioning skills; kids who practice executive skills are not only learning self-management, but also developing the connections in the brain that will support the development of executive skills in later adolescence and adulthood!  Read on for ways to keep your child’s executive functioning skills sharp over summer break.

Tips for developing executive functioning skills all summer:

  • Praise: If you know your child is particularly good at a certain skill (e.g. task initiation), communicate that to your child and encourage him to use it to complete summer tasks.  For example say, “I really like how you got started on your chores before lunch.” This will encourage the maintenance of the particular skill your child has mastered.
  • Calendars: Summer schedules can be vastly different from the rest of the year, so to prevent difficulties with handling the change in schedule, use a calendar.   Calendars are a great visual tool to help a child with time management, planning and prioritizing. It allows him to plan ahead and know what is expected and when.
  • Accountability: Whether your child is participating in sports, dance, or going to camp, have your child be responsible (or partially responsible, depending on age and capability) for his equipment or supplies.  This can help him to maintain his organizational and working memory skills.
  • Summer Cleaning: If your child has difficulty with task initiation and organization in his room, take the time over the summer to organize a different space together (garage, spare closet) so you can problem solve together how to start, what to do, and how to be efficient. This allows your child to practice this daunting task with some guidance from you.   He can then carry this skill over to improve his personal space. You may even find old bins or containers your child can use for his room!
  • Summertime Incentives: Rewards make the effort of learning a skill and the effort of performing a task worthwhile. In the summer, there are a lot of fun activities and more time to do them! Take advantage of this and use these fun activities (extra time on the computer, extra time at the pool, going to a friend’s house) as rewards for the tasks you want your child to complete.

Instead of allowing your child to forget the gains he made in executive functioning skills at school, use the summer to make gains and have fun!  For more help with executive functioning, click below to download your free executive functioning checklist.

 

Summer Training for Fall Gaining

As summer begins, summer plans take shape.  Hopefully these plans involve lots of fun and sunshine.  Summer should be an enjoyable and exciting time for all children and their families, but it is important to remember to also focus on children’s growth and development.  Sometimes during the break from school, skills gained in an educational or summer therapytherapeutic setting can be lost.  It is important to remember that summer is a great time to keep working on skill development, therapeutic goals, and preparing each child for the challenges of the upcoming school year.

Research continues to show that consistent and high intensity therapy (two or three times per week) results in faster and better functional outcomes for daily skills.  With a more relaxed schedule, summer is a perfect time to increase therapy intensity and have fun building the skills children will need for the new school year.

Specific areas of focus in the summer to prepare for school:

North Shore Pediatric Therapy wants to help your child gain the confidence and independence to conquer all age appropriate tasks! Summer spots are limited. Call us at 877-486-4140 and let us know how we can best support you and your child!