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Stranger Danger: Teaching Your Children to be Safe

Teaching children about “stranger danger” is about teaching the possible dangers they may face as they are out in the world. But, this is not as simple as saying, “Don’t talk to strangers.” I tell children that it is safe to talk to strangers when they are with a grownup they know (such as when a child is with Mom at the Stranger at parkgrocery store and the nice older woman asks what her name is).

We need to teach our children to be functionally weary of strangers. It’s important that your children feel confident rather than fearful. Having information will help them know what to do rather than being afraid if a stranger approaches them.

 

Educating children on good vs. bad strangers

Kids should be taught that not all people they don’t know are dangerous. They need to know the difference between “good strangers” and “bad strangers”. They should know that there really are more good people than bad. Sometimes, kids may need to approach a stranger for help. They may get lost in a store and need help finding you. Teach your children about the best possible stranger to approach for help.

When in public, a good rule of thumb is to teach children to ask an employee (who is easily identified by a uniform or name badge). If your child cannot find an employee, or is not lost in a store, he is better off approaching a woman for help. Although female predators exist, they are less common than male predators. Also, approaching a mom with children is usually a good bet.

Ploys by Predators and What to Do

Some strangers can be persuasive. Tell your children that adults don’t usually need help from a child. It makes more sense for them to ask another adult for directions, finding a lost pet, etc. Children should be taught to never go anywhere with an adult they don’t know.

Predators can be sneaky. They may tell your child that he is a friend of yours and you sent him to pick up your child. Or, the predator may tell your child that you have been injured or are sick and the child has to come with the predator to come see you.

What to tell your child if you can’t pick him up:

  • Explain to your child that you will never send anyone he doesn’t know to pick him up. Tell him if anyone says otherwise, the person is lying and he should get away from the stranger as fast as he can.
  • If you don’t have a group of trusted people who could pick up your child in an emergency, choose a password that you will give to the person picking up your child. The password should be something important to your family that would be difficult for a stranger to guess.
  • Tell your child never to go with anyone who doesn’t know the password and change the password after each use.

9 Stranger Danger Tips to Teach Your Children

1. Know your name, address, and phone number (this will help if the child needs help from the police to get home or contact you).

2. Never walk anywhere alone (this is great for older kids too).

3. Trust your instincts. If you feel you are being followed or something is not right, find help right away.

4. If a stranger approaches you, you do not have to speak to him.

5. Never approach a stranger in a motor vehicle. Just keep walking.

6. Do not accept candy or other “presents” from a stranger.

7. Never walk off with a stranger no matter what!

8. If someone is following you, try to remember the license plate of the vehicle and tell a trusted adult right away.

9. If a stranger grabs you, do anything you can to stop him from pulling you away or dragging you into his car. Drop to the ground, kick, hit, bite, and scream. Get the attention of others who can help you. Scream out, “This is not my dad,” or “this is not my mom!”

 

*North Shore Pediatric Therapy, Inc. (NSPT) intends for responses to the blogs to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; all content and answers to questions should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).  Questions submitted to this blog are not guaranteed to receive responses.  No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by NSPT  to people submitting questions.  Always consult with your health professional first before initiating or changing any aspect of your treatment regimen.

Helping Your Child Plan and Organize Their Daily Lives

The start of school brings many changes with children’s daily lives. Children must be able to transition between subjects, organizing their work, sitting at home, and independently taking the initiative to do their homework and monitor their own productivity. These above behaviors all fall under the label of “executive functioning.”

homework with mom and daughterMany children are able to complete these tasks and behaviors independently; however, a large portion of children also struggle with one or more of the behaviors and tasks. As a result, many children benefit from strategies to help develop their organization, planning, problem solving, time management, and monitoring of their work.

Parents vs. Children on Homework Assignments

As a psychologist, I often have parents inform me about constant battles that they have with their children to complete daily homework assignments. Specifically, parents often report to me that their children will do anything but start their homework (surfing the internet, texting friends from their cell phones, or watching television/playing video games).

Two major executive functioning tasks are involved with the child’s ability to complete daily homework: Initiation of action and time management. Children who demonstrate issues with their ability to complete daily homework benefit from strategies and interventions that target their ability to start and complete their work in a timely fashion.

Tips to help children complete daily homework:

  • Developing a daily “Need to” (homework, chores) and “Want to” (baseball practice, dance lessons, video game time) list of tasks
  • Prioritizing the list with estimated time requirements for each task
  • Verbally and physically prompting your child before starting each task by (e.g., “John, what is the next thing we should do?” while tapping him on the shoulder)
  • Positively reinforcing all self-initiating tasks by giving praise when your child starts a project on his/her own

Dealing With Your Child’s Forgetfulness About Assignments

Another major area of concern I hear from parents is that although their children are able to actually complete the work, they struggle with their organizational skills and will either forget about the assignments or lose the work between home and school. As a result of the difficulties with organization, all children benefit from strategies to improve this area of functioning.

Strategies that have proven to be effective with the development of a child’s organization include:

  • Structuring and scheduling designated ‘study time’ as part of your child’s daily routine.
  • Completing homework in a central location away from distracters including television, computer, telephone, and other people who might be disruptive.
  • Creating time-lines for long-term projects, breaking tasks down into basic elements with separate due dates for each task.
  • Discussing homework expectations with their teacher to determine the recommended amount of study time.

With the start of school, we want to help children be as organized as possible and ready to complete daily homework in a timely fashion. Following the above strategies and developing some of your own will ensure that your child will be more organized and less stressed!

6 Ways Aquatic Therapy Can Help Your Child

Aquatic therapy is a wonderful activity for children and adults of all ages. If your child likes the bath and is motivated by water, aquatic therapy is aqua therapygreat way to build their skills and confidence.

Below are 6 ways that aquatic therapy can help your child reach their full potential:

1. Gains in range of motion:

After an injury, such as a broken leg or an ankle sprain, joint movement is often limited by swelling or decreased strength to muscles. Aquatic therapy pools are generally set to a comfortable 80-90 degrees, which is warmer then a normal pool. Using the warm temperature of the water, joints will be able to be more flexible and stretch to new limits.

2. Increased strength:

Once proper range of motion is achieved at a joint, proper strengthening is needed in order for the muscle to perform well at its new length. Using the principle of resistance, muscles are able to gain strength by performing simple actions in the water, such as lifting a leg to the side of the body.

3. Achievement of gross motor milestones:

Children have an easier time completing gross motor milestones, such as rolling, walking and jumping in the water secondary to buoyancy principles. For example, a child with cerebral palsy may learn to roll in the water with the assist of a therapist and the buoyancy of the water. Once the nervous and musculoskeletal system in the child’s body learn how to roll in the water, it will be easier to learn on a mat table in the clinic and then transfer to rolling in bed at home.

4. Increased tactile input:

For kids with sensory processing disorders, the water can provide the deep pressure input that they crave. This deep pressure and overall increased tactile input will help a child who has difficulty processing sensory input transfer into a more organized, calm child.

5. Helps with breath support:

For kids with speech issues, aquatic therapy can be very helpful. By using techniques such as holding their breath under water, deep breathing and by raising their arms up and bringing them down with the resistance of water can all help with proper breath support for speaking.

6. Better social interaction:

Completing gross motor activities can often help to decrease social anxiety. Often times, jumping into the water or swimming across the length of the pool can encourage speaking in children who have anxiety. Kids can also learn a swimming stroke from watching each other, share toys and participate in fun games together in the pool setting.

Aquatic therapy can be a great way to help your child reach their full potential. Not only can it help with gross motor skills, but can also help with speech and social interaction. So, if your child is motivated by the water, encourage them to jump on in!

Have aquatic games you would like to share? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Bossy Girls: How To Manage Your Daughter’s “Diva-ness”

Bossiness can be perceived in different ways. Some people see it as being rude and controlling. While others view it as an bossy girlindividual knowing what they want and standing up for it. No matter how it is viewed, most parents do not want their children to be bossy. Many parents fear that their children will lose friends if they are bossy and absorbed only in themselves.

3 suggestions to help you manage your bossy daughter:

1. Talk About It.

Help your daughter understand what it means to be a good friend. Provide situations in which she has been a good friend by cooperating, appropriately playing, and making decisions with her friends. Also, discuss situations in which she has not been a good friend by acting bossy and controlling situations.

Help her realize that being bossy and controlling is not okay and have her identify more appropriate ways to interact with her friends. For example, stress the importance of listening to her friends and sharing and taking turns on what they want to do. Cooperation is another skill that can be taught, as well as teaching her to make suggestions and provide choices rather than just being demanding.

2. Practice.

After you discussed more appropriate ways for your daughter to play and interact with her friends, you should role-play different scenarios. Provide different situations in which she can either be a cooperative friend or a bossy friend. Have your daughter explain what she would do in the different situations. Throughout these role-playing exercises, provide your daughter guidance and feedback.

3. In the Moment.

When your daughter is playing with her friends, you want to be able to catch her in the moment. When she is appropriately playing with her friends and being a good friend, provide praise for these nice interactions. If you observe her being bossy, pull her aside and let her know that she is being bossy and not being a good friend and explain why.

Instead of calling your daughter out in front of her friends, it is best to talk to her in a different room or even whisper in her ear. If she continues the behavior after you bring it to her attention, give her a time-out. Let her know that when she is ready to be a good friend she can go back to playing with her friends. While in time-out, you can have her write an apology letter to her friends or after the time-out, you can have her verbally apologize to her friends.

If your daughter gives attitude toward you, let her know that the way she is acting is not okay and have her restate what she said in a nicer tone/manner. If she continues to be bossy or rude do not grant her request until she can make the request in an appropriate manner.

Sugar Not to Blame for ADHD

Sugar has been hypothesized for years as being a major culprit in the rise of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

In fact, this notion was so popular and accepted that it was actually paired as the correct answer to the statement, “The major cause of hyperactivity in North America” on the Kid with junk foodtelevision show Jeopardy in January of 1987 (Barkley, 2000). It is surprising that such claims have been made and still held onto today even though not a single scientific study has supported them.

Why people blame ADHD in children on sugar:

Why do parents and many practitioners hold on to such claims then? Why is the idea that sugar will make you hyper so popular? One suggestion has been postulated by two psychologists from the University of Kentucky in a study published in 1994 is the power of psychological suggestion.

In this study, the authors created a condition in which the mothers of several boys who rated their children as being “sugar sensitive” were instructed that their child was either given a drink with sugar or a sugar free drink; when in fact none of the children were given any sugar in the drinks. The mothers were then asked to rate their child’s behavior after they were given the drink.

Results indicated that the mothers who thought their children had ingested a sugary drink rated their children as being more hyperactive.

The mothers were also:

  • More critical of their physical activities
  • Maintained closer physical proximity to their children
  • Talked more frequently to the children then the parents who thought the child consumed the sugar free drink.

What this study indicates as pointed out by Barkley (2000) is that “what parents believe about a dietary cause of hyperactivity (e.g. sugar) not only can bias their reports but also can change the way the parents treat their children.”

Causes of ADHD:

So, sugar does not cause ADHD, but what does?

What numerous research articles have indicated is that both genetic and environmental factors produce the cluster of symptoms that make up the condition. What is known is that genetics has(have) the largest factor in the expression of ADHD. Research has indicated that up to 80% of the variance in the expression of ADHD symptoms is directly related to genetics (Marks, Trampush, & Chacko, 2010).

Beyond genetics, research has demonstrated the importance of two major neurotransmitters in the expression of the condition: dopamine and norepinephrine. Thus, it comes as no surprise that majority of stimulant and non-stimulant pharmacological interventions for ADHD target these two neurotransmitters.

Overall, much hype has been made regarding the impact that sugar has on the expression of ADHD; specifically many individuals hold the notion that sugar increases hyperactivity. Not a single empirical research study has supported that notion. What research has supported is that the cause of the disorder is the same cause of the majority of mental health disorders; a combination of genetics and the environment.

How to Prepare a Child for a Visit to the Dentist

Going to the dentist, whether for the first time or the tenth time, can be an intimidating event for both children and their parents-especially children with sensory processing disorders. Children and parents usually have a lot of questions about what is going to happen at the appointment.Kid visiting the dentist

Parents wonder: Will my child have a meltdown? Have we been brushing his teeth enough? Will my child have cavities?

Children wonder: Why do I have to go to the dentist? Will it hurt? What will is smell like? Will it be loud? How long will it take? Do I get a prize at the end?

Below are some simple tips to try out the next time a dentist appointment is approaching, so that everyone has a worry-free experience.

5 Simple Tips to prepare your child for a dentist appointment:

1. Make sure to talk to your child ahead of time. Let them know which day they will be going to the dentist and tell them some of the events that may occur (e.g. sit in a special chair, clean their teeth with toothpaste, look in their mouth with a small mirror and other silver tools).

2. Talk about their 5 senses. Let your child know what noises they may hear with their ears, see with their eyes, taste with their mouth, touch with their hands or mouth, or smell with their nose (e.g. bright lights above their chair so that the dentist can see all of their teeth; cold water from a little hose to rinse out their mouth).

3. Drive past the dentist office a day or two prior to the appointment so that your child can see where they will be going. Talk about landmarks nearby, especially if they have been to that area before or have a special interest in something nearby (e.g. “There is the grocery store we go to each week to buy our food” or “there is the post office where all of our letters go”).

4. Have your child mark off the days on the calendar or create a countdown on a wipe-off board one week prior to the appointment. This will give your child a visual cue and help them to take an active part in the upcoming appointment. Click here for more information about the benefits of visual calendars.

5. Make your child comfortable.  Allow your child to bring 1 comfort item with them (e.g. small stuffed animal/blanket, squeeze toy or favorite car etc).

Feel free to share some of your Dentist Tips with us by leaving a comment below!

Teaching Turn Taking

While sitting at the park you begin to wonder why it appears to be so effortless for other kids to enjoy playing and interacting together when your child has a difficult time with what seems to be such an easy activity. Relax, we have all Kids taking turnsbeen there.

Teaching turn taking is a challenge for all kids and is even more difficult for kids on the autism spectrum. I say it is difficult but NOT impossible!

Strategies to help your child engage in turn taking activities:

Rule-based games:

There are several types of activities that involve turn taking. Rule based games are simply just board games. This is probably one of the easiest games to use to teach turn taking. It is important to teach your child the rules of the game and more importantly the outcome of the game. Since these games are predictable, children tend to understand it better because there are no surprises and they know the expectation.

You can also adapt these types of games depending on your child. If your child has difficulty with fine motor skills, you may choose different game pieces to use. There are several Iphone/Ipad applications called TurnTaker that helps prompt your child to know that it is their turn. Rule based games are also a great tool to help facilitate reciprocal conversation and appropriate use language.

Pretend Play:

Another easy way to teach language to all children is through the use of pretend play. During this time, most kids take on different roles and use these roles to develop a theme. It will provide your child with multiple opportunities to use the language that they are acquiring. It also gives them control over what happens next.

Once a “script” has been developed, it is important for you to begin to change parts of the script or involve others.

Cooperative Activities:

This is most commonly seen at schools or homes with other peers/siblings. I like to teach this by having two or three children working on the same project, such as a painting-but only allowing them access to one or two paintbrushes. This forces the children to ask each other for the brushes. You can also teach this by giving each child a puzzle to complete, but giving the pieces to another friend in which they have to ask each other for. If your child is non-verbal, you can teach them to point or use PECS pictures to mand for the pieces.

Tips for turn-taking activities:

  1. Make sure to use social stories whenever possible. Social stories are dialogues that are easy for the child to read and follow. It should be short, detailed, and specific.
  2. Modeling. You can use yourself or other peers to model the correct behavior.
  3. Visuals. Use visuals to help your child understand what is expected of him/her. It can also be used to help teach the rules of the game. Example: If playing Guess Who, you can make a picture prompting them with questions to ask (picture of boy and girl, brown hair vs. blonde hair etc).

Feel free to leave a comment with your turn-taking strategies and stories.

Facebook, Twitter, Texting: Are They Bad For Language Development?

The impact of social media on children is quite the hot topic these days! There is a lot of talk about what impact social media has on a child’s language development and many arguments support both sides. Some people believe that social media better helps develop a child’s language Baby Using A Laptopfunctioning, while others report that it does more harm than good.

In my opinion, the use of social media, either via the internet or text messaging, will not cause a regression in social and communication skills. In fact, I think that there are ways in which social media can actually aid in the development of these skills. Can such modes of communication actually help foster language development? I do not know; however, it is my belief that such interaction cannot harm a child’s language development.

Communication Practice

Let’s start by answering the question, “What is communication?” or rather “What is the purpose of communication?” We use communication to exchange information or ideas with other people. Language, on the other hand, is the means by which we engage in communication. Language begins to develop early on in life through interactions with people and the environment. Children learn and practice their communication skills with their family and peers; however, they also learn and practice their skills when utilizing different forms of social media. Computers and cell phones are inherently engaging to children. Once a child becomes motivated to complete a task, the child is able to engage in communication with peers. If children send instant messages, they still practice the reciprocity necessary to having a conversation. This form of communication can help a reserved or shy child develop confidence while simultaneously developing the rules necessary for social interaction.

Limitations

On the flip side, communicating through social media does not allow children to recognize non-verbal cues that are often required to fully interpret a message. For example, sarcasm is often identified based on tone of voice. If one person can’t hear what the other person said or if he can’t see the other person’s facial expression, the message may be misinterpreted. Also, because texting and instant messaging do not require an immediate response, you may lose some of the reciprocity that is essential to having a conversation.

Use in Moderation

The use of social media in this day and age is inevitable. Although its use may be helpful to the development of communication and language, it’s crucial that children are NOT solely reliant on such means of communication. Therefore, it is important to monitor how much time your children use social media. They should not be spending all of their time doing something that may not help their language development. Children still need the opportunity to engage in personal interactions in order to develop socially.

Note from the Author: This blog is not based on research or statistics, but rather on my own observations, interpretation, and experience.

The Death Of A Pet: How To Help Your Child Cope

When your family adopts a pet, it becomes a part of the family. When the pet grows old and becomes ill, inevitably you must discuss the possibility of the death of your beloved pet. For many children, losing a pet is the first experience they have with death, and the grieving process can be difficult for themYoung Boy Hugging Dog. As you talk with your children about the death of your pet, it is important to listen to their concerns, questions, and feelings.

Euthanizing Your Pet

No one wants a  pet to suffer any longer than necessary, so some families decide it is best to euthanize their pet. Euthanizing a pet involves “death by injection” for a terminally ill or suffering animal.

If you decide to euthanize your pet, be honest with your children. Talk about death before it happens using age-appropriate terms. For instance, “We all love Bailey so much. She is very, very sick and can’t do the things she used to like to do because she is in so much pain. The veterinarian said that was Bailey’s way of showing us that she could no longer live the life she was used to living. She said she could help Bailey die, so Bailey wouldn’t hurt anymore.” Make sure that young children know that very ill pets can be euthanized, but sick children never are.

Be Honest With Your Child About What Happened to Your Pet

When your pet dies, do not tell your child that the pet has run away. This explanation can leave your child wondering whether he did something to make the pet want to leave. Also, don’t tell your child that the pet has gone to a farm. This could give your child the false hope that he can see the pet again.

Although adults often talk about having to put their pet “to sleep”, it is not recommended that parents use this terminology with young children (under the age of 6). For young children, sleeping implies that the animal will eventually wake up. When the pet doesn’t wake up, young children can develop fears about going to sleep.

I also recommend that you don’t tell your children that you are putting your pet “down” because often parents will use the same term when they put an infant down for a nap. This can be very confusing for young children.

Managing Grief Over The Loss Of Your Pet

It is healthy for children to see that you are also sad about the death of your pet. It’s a great way for children to understand that being sad is okay. You can tell your children, “I’m so sad because I really miss Bailey.”

Everyone grieves differently, so if your child doesn’t cry, let her know it is okay to show her feelings any way that feels comfortable. Your child may enjoy showing her feelings by looking at pictures of the pet, drawing her own pictures, or telling stories about  positive and silly memories of her pet. Why not make a book of everyone in the family’s favorite memories of the pet, complete with photographs or drawings? It will be a great keepsake for years to come.

What Happens To The Pet After He Dies?

If your family’s religious or spiritual beliefs impact how you view death, share them with your child. There is also a poem about the death of a pet called Rainbow Bridge that has a beautiful way of describing where the pet goes once she dies. I recommend that families only share the first three paragraphs with small children, as the next two paragraphs discuss people reuniting with a pet when they die. If your child is having a particularly difficult time with the death of your pet, this can be very unsettling.

When To Adopt a New Pet

It is a very personal decision as to whether or when it is appropriate. Children should not be encouraged to get a new pet merely to “get over” the loss of their pet. A new pet doesn’t replace their beloved pet. Once your child can speak openly about the pet that died and begins to show an interest in a new pet, then the family can discuss if it is the right time.

*North Shore Pediatric Therapy, Inc. (NSPT) intends for responses to the blogs to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; all content and answers to questions should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s). Questions submitted to this blog are not guaranteed to receive responses. No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by NSPT to people submitting questions. Always consult with your health professional first before initiating or changing any aspect of your treatment regimen.

 

Reading Contest Results: Top Books For First Time Readers

Reading together is a great activity with many benefits parents and caretakers can do with children from a very young age. Some parents even read to their children before birth!

Before you know it, the time comes for children to get Pile Of Booksinvolved with the reading… But what story will provide the right combination excitement, fun, inspiration, and picture guidance to allow your child to read a book to you, all on their own?

A trip to the library or the children’s section of your local bookstore will provide a variety of options that can sometimes be overwhelming. To help you pick out the best books for your child we held a contest on our blog asking our readers to share with you which books they, or their children had first reading success with.

Below are the best first book titles we compiled from our blog readers to help start your child on their life long reading adventure.

Top Titles For First Time Readers

  1. Go Away Big Green Monster by Ed Emberly – “fun to read and act out”
  2. Go Dog Go by P.D. Eastman – “When they don’t recognize a word, they only need to look at the pictures to help them figure it out!”
  3. We Love You…Just The Way You Are! Mommy Perks got creative and wrote this story for her daughter and it became “her first memorized story”
  4. Moo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton
  5. The Belly Button Book by Sandra Boynton.
  6. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.
  7. Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Eric Carle and Bill Martin Jr.
  8. From Head To Toe by Eric Carle
  9. My Uncle’s Donkey by Tohby Riddle: “I really really loved it to the extent that I would always hold it!”
  10. Green Eggs And Ham by Dr. Seuss – “as a picky eater, I loved quoting this book for my parents at meal-time and using food coloring to make green eggs with my mom

We hope you can use some of these books to get your child excited about reading. Soon you will experience the proud feeling and excitement that comes when your child can read a book to you next story time!