Posts

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!

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.

International Adoption and Speech-Language Development

According to the U.S. Department of State, approximately 11,059 children were adopted internationally in 2010.  Over 88% of these children were likely raised in an orphanage prior to their adoption (Johnson & Dole, 1999).  Research has well-documented that children raised in orphanage care are at a Baby Reaching Out Handhigh risk for language and developmental delays (Johnson, 2000).  For expecting parents, this may sound overwhelming and even intimidating.  However, research also says that adoption can often counteract the effects of orphanage care.  Understanding what the research says can be a liberating guide for parents as they support their child through the adoption process.  Knowing what to expect can reduce anxiety and empower parents to plan and prepare with confidence.

What Language Skills Can Adopting Parents Expect?

  • Children who have spent time in orphanage care often show delayed language skills.  It’s important to know that delays are not just in the new language, but in their birth language as well.  These children may vocalize or babble less frequently, have limited vocabulary and use of phrases or sentences, show difficulty understanding spoken language, and have poor speech clarity.
  • Most children raised in orphanage care have strong non-verbal social interaction skills.  This includes skills such as making eye-contact, using facial expressions, smiling at others, showing toys to adults, pointed to or reaching for desired toys, and pushing items away that they don’t want.
  • In most cases, language delays are a direct result of limited one-on-one interactions with adults while in orphanage care.  As children learn to speak, their sounds and words are reinforced by caregivers who model, respond and encourage language.  Without this individualized care, children’s communicative attempts become stalled.  Even in caring and well-equipped environments, less available adults per child will likely result in language delays.
  • It’s important to keep in mind that there are always exceptions.  While most language delays are a result of limited interaction with caregivers, some children might have underlying developmental disorders that are not a result of a orphanage care.  It’s important to seek guidance from a licensed speech-language pathologist to determine if your child needs intervention.
  • After adoption, children will likely loose their birth language quickly (unless their adoptive parents speak their native language).  The child’s birth language is likely to be lost before their new language is fully acquired.  During this period of time when language is temporarily arrested, a child might feel more frustrated when they can’t communicate effectively.
  • After adoption, children will quickly begin to acquire their new language.  In fact, research suggests that children adopted under the age of 2, often develop language skills that are within normal limits one year after adoption (Glennen, 2007).  Skills will continue to progress after the first year, although, the majority of language acquisition occurs during the initial year following adoption.

How Can Parents Help Their Child Develop Language Skills?

One of the most effective ways to counteract the effects of orphanage care is adoption.  Parents and caregivers play a critical role in helping their child develop communication skills.  Create a language-rich environment for your child, and enjoy one-on-one time together.  Here are specific ways to promote speech and language development in your toddler:

  • Play with your child!  Come down to their level, and sit face-to-face while you play.  Model, encourage and reinforce their communication while you play.
  • Encourage your child to imitate your actions, gestures and sounds. Make animal sounds or environmental noises (e.g. beep beep, moo moo, etc) or sing songs with gestures (e.g. Itsy Bitsy Spider, Wheels on the Bus, etc).
  • Label various objects and actions. Describe objects or actions in the environment, or read picture books while pointing to different pictures.
  • Narrate what is happening in the environment.  Use simple language to describe what you see or what people are doing (e.g. Bear is sleeping! Mommy is jumping!).
  • Play turn-taking games, such as passing a ball a ball back and forth or sharing a toy.
  • Reinforce your child’s communicative attempts by responding to and repeating what they say.

For more tips to encourage language development in toddlers, visit the blog “Encouraging Your Infant to Communicate“.

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.

Go Outside! The Many Benefits Of Outdoor Play For Children

These days, technology has made everything more convenient for us, including play. Children don’t have to leave their house as they have a wide assortment of video games and educational Outdoor Play Blogcomputer games to choose from, as well as educational toys that talk and move and as a result, we see a decrease in outdoor play. These advances can be great and very beneficial for a developing child; however, technology cannot replace what is most important- the real, natural experience.

The benefits of outdoor play on children:

Children need to engage in outdoor play to experience the smells, textures, sounds and movement of the world in order to help their nervous systems develop. Children need the natural sensory experiences to learn about the world, and how to react to and adapt to their surroundings. Sometimes children really want to stay inside to play video games and sleep, but when they do this they are deprived of these developmentally important, sensory-rich experiences.

The tactile sense, for example, is a very important sense as we need steady tactile stimulation to keep us organized, functioning and healthy. Tactile information helps to develop visual perception, motor planning, body awareness, social skills and emotional security, among others. The vestibular, proprioceptive, visual, and olfactory senses are very important as well, and children need to utilitze these in order to help the development of their gross and fine motor skills.

Some fun activities to stimulate children’s senses during outside play include:

  • Splashing and playing in puddles
  • Playing in the mud and making “mud pancakes”
  • Picking flowers to make a wreathe, or to play “flower shop”
  • Climbing trees
  • Running around barefoot in the grass
  • Playing in sand and making sand castles
  • Swimming in a lake
  • Riding a bike on a bumpy driveway outside
  • Crunching dried leaves with your feet
  • Raking leaves and jumping into the piles
  • Making snow angels, snowmen, igloos, forts and having snowball fights in the winter

The benefits are many; one mother has even said that her “picky eater” child “is so much more willing to try new foods after he comes home from playing outside.” Children also need some time for relaxation and unstructured play to learn about the world and to help develop their imaginations. So go ahead, relax, and let your children go outside!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonDeerfieldLincolnwoodGlenviewLake BluffDes PlainesHinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

Meet-With-An-Occupational-Therapist

5 Tips For Improving Your Child’s Language And Social Skills During Your Everyday Routine

When it comes to improving language and social skills, and evolving cognitive behavior in children, it is natural that a Young Boy Reaching For Toybehavior analyst will  look for environmental variables that may impact behaviors that influence these areas of learning. There are various studies  showing that children’s early life experiences can play an important role in language development. There are also various educational models that result in improvement in language and other cognitive and social skills. However, there is also evidence  suggesting that any gains or advantages can diminish over time, especially in children of poor and working-class families.

Through their book Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children (1995), Hart and Risley found that the quality and frequency of speech between parents and infants (6 to 8 months of age) have a direct impact on their vocabularies. They were also able to teach parents at home, and on the job to say more to their children and be more reinforcing (as opposed to primitive and discouraging in nature) when their children imitated and took notice to their examples.

The following are some strategies that can assist you in improving your child’s verbal and overall social skills.

Tips For Finding Everyday Moments To Teach Verbal And Social Skills

Identify a few learning goals that you want to focus on with your child (e.g. establishing eye contact, asking for a preferred item, etc.)

  • To start out with, it may be helpful to choose some activities in which to focus on (e.g. looking at your child’s favorite book, playing with a preferred toy)

Look and plan for “Teachable moments”

  • Can include daily routines (e.g. meals, playtime, car trips, getting dressed, watching TV, etc)
  • Take time to plan your events (e.g. During a community outing you can work on one word exchanges with others, gross motor imitation, or eye contact). This may help eliminate trying to think of what to do while you are in the middle of doing it.

Pay attention to what your child wants. The best “teachable moment” is when your child wants something (e.g. food, toy, attention, a break, etc)

  • Let your child select the activity
  • Let your child initiate the interaction by requesting assistance from the adult
  • Requests can be verbal and nonverbal e.g. calling your name, crying, stretching for an object, asking for food, play material, or information

The “teachable moment” should be just that – a moment. Keep it brief and enjoyable. If it goes too long it may become unpleasant to the child. In this case stop and go on to another activity.

Start small and set a goal – “Today I will look for 3 “teachable moments”

  • As you get used to this it will start to feel more natural and you can increase your goal
  • Keep planning to make sure you are reaching your goals

 

Encouraging Your Infant to Communicate

Promoting speech and language development from the start

Your infant may not be using words yet, but they are communicating in big ways! In fact, children begin to communicate long before they start talking. Eye gaze, crying, listening, facial expressions, gestures, turn-taking, and vocalizations are all foundations of speech and languageHappy Baby Talking To Mom. The first year of life is a critical time in language development as children learn the building blocks of communication. There are many things parents can do to help their child’s language skills blossom!

Tips to encourage your infant’s communication:

  1. Play with your baby! Face to face interaction with your child may be the most valuable tool you have. No high-priced toy or well-researched program can compare to the benefits your child will gain from face-to-face time with loved ones.
    For grown-ups, play is what we do after a long day of work. For children, however, play is their job! Play is the backdrop for child learning and developing. It provides opportunities to explore, problem- solve, learn cause -and -effect, and communicate. As you play with your child, follow their lead. Pause before jumping in to assist your child. Give them opportunities to ask for a favorite toy by placing it just out of reach. If something unexpected happens (e.g. a book falls off the table), pause to let your child react or communicate before fixing the problem.
  2. Reinforce your child’s communicative attempts by responding to and imitating their facial expressions, vocalizations and babbling. Maintain eye-contact as you imitate the sounds your child makes.
  3. Encourage your child to use different vowels and speech sounds such as “oo”, “ee”, “da”, “ba” or “ma”. Engage your child in sound play, pairing different sounds with silly actions. You might knock over a block and exclaim “uh oh!” or tickle your baby’s toes and say “do do!”
  4. Pair gestures with words to help convey meaning as you communicate with your child. For example, if your child wants to be picked up, you might reach your hands up high and say “up!’. Wave your hand as you say “bye bye!” Point to objects as you label them (e.g. “ball!” or “milk!”).
  5.  Encourage your child to imitate your actions. Play finger games such as “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, “Wheels on the Bus”, and “Pat-A-Cake”. You might also play “Peek-A-Boo”, clap your hands, or blow kisses.
  6. Make environmental noises during play (e.g. “car says beep beep!” or “cow says moo moo!”). Encourage your child to imitate various sounds as they explore and play.
  7. Sing to your child! Songs are an excellent way to engage your child in a meaningful and language-rich context. Add gestures to your songs, and create anticipation as you vary your facial expressions and intonation. The repetition of a familiar song will provide opportunities for your child to anticipate and even join in!
  8. Narrate what is happening in the environment. Use simple language to describe actions and events to your child as they are happening (e.g. “Mommy is putting shoes on!” or “Mommy is washing your hands!”).
  9. Read to your child! Choose books with large and engaging pictures that are not too detailed. Point to and label various pictures (e.g. “ball!” or “cow…moo moo!”). Ask your child “What’s this?” and encourage them to name pictures. A young child may not be able to attend to a book for very long- that’s okay! Follow your child’s lead and don’t feel pressured to finish a whole book. Instead, focus on keeping literacy activities fun and engaging, and enjoy the few pages that your child reads.

Click here for even more tips to encourage speech and language development in your child.

Developmental Skills While Playing With Dolls

Playing is a child’s primary job, and a beneficial one at that.  Through play, children develop fine and gross motor skills, practice language and develop new vocabulary, and begin to understand new learning concepts. 

Below is a sample of all that is involved and developing when your child plays with dolls.

 Cognition

  •      Develops imaginative play skills as your child cares for her doll.
  •     Teaches different emotions and relationships as child role plays. Read more

Child Development: Is My Child Normal?

Mom and Baby The number one reason that parents contact myself and the various therapists at North Shore Pediatric Therapy is to find out whether or not their children are developing and progressing at a normal rate. When should my child crawl? When should she start speaking? At what age should he be walking? These are all questions that we find ourselves answering on a daily basis. Parents often are not privy to this information. If only children would come with an instruction manual. Each child develops at a different rate, which is found to be dependent upon several factors including environmental influence (exposure to a variety of experiences) to genetic predisposition. That being said, there are stages of development that every child will reach in a hierarchical order. The main areas of development include a child’s motor ability and his or her language functioning. Language functioning can then be broken down into two main areas: receptive language, which is the child’s ability to listen to and follow auditory demands, and expressive language, which is the ability to provide comprehensive responses. Below is a chart for the major stages of motor and language development along with typical ages in which the child should reach the stage. Read more