Posts

An Introduction on Interventions for Executive Functioning

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

  • Organization

  • Planning

  • Problem solving

  • Working memory

  • Initiation of tasks

  • Impulse control

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

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

How To Help Fidgety Students Pay Attention In Class

For many teachers, it can be hard to teach class when students are wiggling around in their seats or on the rug during instruction. Though it may be difficult to determine exactly why children fidget and have difficulty paying attention there are things that teachers can do to help!

Some children might fidget in an effort to pay attention to the teacher. These children are often classified as “low arousal” children who need more movement to keep their bodies upright and to participate in the classroom. Other children might be fidgety because they are constantly seeking out sensory experiences from their environment to get a better understanding of where their body is in space.

Some children might fidget because they do not have the trunk control to maintain a static muscle contraction in order to sit upright. Other children might be overly sensitive to light touch and might be bothered by the way the chair or rug feels on their body, how their clothing feels, or how close their classmate is sitting next to them.

Below are some strategies for teachers to help their students with fidgety behaviors in the classroom:

• Provide students with seating surfaces, such as a Move’N’Sit cushion or therapy ball to give their body sensory input. Read more

Strategies for Oral and Motor/Sensorimotor Input

Children who put toys in their mouths, chew on their clothing or bite their pencils at school may be seeking oral motor/sensorimotor input to help their bodies reach anGirl chewing pencil optimal arousal level. We want to provide them with strategies to get this input in an appropriate manner. Here is a list of alternative strategies to support your child’s oral motor/sensorimotor needs.

Strategies For Children Seeking Oral Input:

1. Engage in activities such as whistling, blowing bubbles and using blow pens

2. Play games with straws (i.e. hockey by blowing cotton balls or splatter painting by blowing on paint using a straw)

3. Have them eat sweet and sour candies

4. Chew gum

5. Blow up balloons

6. Make a chewy necklace out of cheerios and licorice

7. Drink thick liquids (e.g. applesauce, pudding) through a straw

8. Drink water through a water bottle with a straw

9. Make a bubble volcano: Fill a bucket with soap and water, and have your child use a straw to blow bubbles to make the volcano. This is an activity you can use at home to help with self-regulation.

10. Send chewy, crunchy snacks (e.g. pretzels, granola bar, fruit leather, bagels) for lunch

11. Purchase products designed for chewing:

• Chewlery: http://www.therapro.com/Chewlery-and-Chewies-P321445.aspx

• Chew tubes and similar objects: http://www.therapro.com/Designed-to-Chew-C307786.aspx

• Other fun oral motor tools: http://funandfunction.com/oral-motor-chewies-c-65_107_110.html

• ChewEase pencil toppers: http://www.amazon.com/3-Clear-ChewEase-Pencil-Toppers/dp/B001G2DAK8

What Is Executive Functioning?

Disorganized Child“Executive functioning” is a buzzword right now in the academic and parenting worlds. I often hear teachers use the term loosely at staffing and school meetings. What does it actually mean, though, and why do so few children seem to have executive functioning skills?

Executive Functioning Defined:

The definition of executive functioning is actually implied in the name – it is the CEO of an individual’s daily activities. These skills make up the child’s ability to organize, plan, problem solve, inhibit responses, fluidly transition between tasks, monitor work, and effectively change solutions based upon new information.

Examples Of Executive Functioning Skills:

These skills can be seen throughout a child’s day: does the child have a set plan for a morning routine, or is it chaos on a daily basis? Is the child’s room organized so that anyone walking in knows where items should be? What about his/her backpack or locker? Does the child forget to turn in homework assignments that he/she actually completed? Does the child forget to write down daily assignments or forget to bring home necessary materials? What about the social world – does the child struggle planning activities with friends? Read more

Navigating Speech & Language Difficulties in the Classroom

The relationship between language skills and academic performance is well-documented by research. Speech and language skills are critical to successfully navigating the classroom, from following directions to verbally expressing ideas to building relationships with peers. For children with speech and language difficulties, these everyday occurrences can feel daunting, and at times, can become roadblocks to success.

Children with speech and language difficulties often require individualized assistance to succeed in a classroom setting. For teachers, this presents a challenge amidst very demanding schedules and class sizes of thirty or more students, each with varying needs. Any hand-tailored strategy can easily be applied in a one-on-one setting, but within an entire class of students, it’s not always so easy.

This blog is dedicated to teachers and educators, in hopes of offering practical strategies that can be readily incorporated into the classroom on any given day despite the rigorous demands of a school schedule. Natural opportunities to encourage speech and language are threaded throughout each day, and my hope is to shed light on these moments. Additionally, I hope to offer guidance in troubleshooting those more challenging moments, and in the end, see our students with speech and language difficulties thrive in the classroom setting.

Is it a Speech & Language Disorder? Discerning the Red Flags:

A handful of students in your classroom may already be identified as having a speech and language disorder. Other students, however, may remain undetected. Here are common red flags to identify speech and language difficulties within the classroom:

Speech Red Flags In The Classroom:

– difficulty following directions that are spoken or read

– difficulty comprehending a story that is spoken or read Read more

Gifted Children And What It Means To Be Advanced

gifted childI was asked to write a blog on giftedness in children – specifically, how to access it and how to ensure that a child with cognitive strength is able to reach his or her potential. This has proven to be a hard topic to write about. I don’t like the term “giftedness” for several reasons, but before I divulge those, I need to discuss what it means to be “gifted.”

A quick review of basic statistics is necessary in order to understand how we assess children has demonstrating superior ability. Traditionally, when we think of giftedness, we are thinking of a child’s IQ score. The vast majority of IQ scores used standard scores. A standard score is a statistical term in which a score of 100 is solidly average (50th percentile) and a standard deviation (the spread of scores from the mean of 100) of 15. In layman terms, scores between 85-115 are considered to be average.

When you are talking about giftedness, we see scores with at least two standard deviations greater than the mean (meaning an IQ score of 130 or higher). So, gifted children are those children that have IQ scores of 130 or higher. Pretty easy to identify, right? Wrong. One of my major critiques of giftedness is that parents and some academic folk rely way too much on the overall IQ score to determine if a child is gifted.

What Are IQ Measurements For Children?

The current gold-standard IQ measure, the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Fourth Edition (WISC-IV) came out in 2003. On the WISC-IV, children attain a Full Scale IQ score, which is comprised of several factors: verbal reasoning and comprehension, nonverbal reasoning, immediate attention and memory, and processing speed. Here lies one of the concerns in assessing giftedness. Which score should one use? Read more

What is DEVELOPMENTAL DYSLEXIA?

DyslexiaDyslexia is one of the more common conditions to affect school age children. It is estimated that between 5 and 10% of children between the ages of 5 and 20 meet criteria for the disorder. The definition of dyslexia is an inability to read; however, while this is a disorder that is very easy to define, it can be difficult to diagnose and treat. Reading is an intimate and essential skill in our school systems. Children are taught to read in first and second grade; but by grade three they are expected to acquire new information from what they read and children who have difficulties in reading will begin to suffer in all subjects if left untreated.

Dyslexia and The Brain

There has been a wealth of information published on this disorder since first conceptualized nearly a hundred years ago. What researchers have essentially concluded is that we don’t have a formal reading center in our brain. Rather, we utilize language and speech areas to make sense of written words. Thus, any disorder that affects language systems can impact reading. In fact, in adult stroke patients, there is an unusual condition called alexia (can’t read) without agraphia (can’t write), which means that a person could write a sentence but be unable to read what they had just written. Through the advent of neuroimaging, we have been able to trace the pathways that lead from the visual perception of written text to the decoding of that text for meaning and have a pretty good understanding of how children with dyslexia read (or don’t read) differently than normal children. We have not been as successful in figuring out the cause of this disorder.

The current thinking is that our visual system is built to recognize objects from a variety of different angles because we are creatures that move in the world. For instance, if I turn a chair on its side, it won’t take you longer to figure out it is still a chair. However, letters and words need to be identified in the same orientation and in the same order if they are to have meaning. The visual system, therefore, “cheats” by funneling letters and words over to the language centers for processing instead of in typical object recognition centers. If this process occurs correctly, most children will be able to read as early as five years of age. If they don’t funnel this information correctly to the left side, they will continue to treat letters and words just like objects in the environment. For instance, a child might see the word “choir” but say the word “chair” since they are visually so similar in appearance. However, their meaning is quite different and clearly comprehension is going to be affected if many of those errors occur.

Signs of Dyslexia in Children

Some of the common signs of dyslexia in younger children can be the omission of connecting words (i.e., in, an, the, to, etc.), taking the first letter or two of the word and guessing, or converting words that they have never seen into words that they already know, even when the meaning is quite different. I hear often that parents become worried because their child reverses letters and, while this does occur in children with dyslexia, it is also a fairly common phenomenon with children who are learning to read, particularly with letters that look similar (i.e., b and d). Thus, it often does take a trained professional to differentiate children who are poor readers or who are developing slowly or in a patch-like fashion from children who actually have dyslexia.

Dyslexia in School

One of the challenges with this condition is that many of the schools have gone to an RTI Model (Response To Intervention) for reading. This means that they wait to see how a child responds to a normal classroom and if they fail, they move them to additional services, and if that fails, they move them to further intense services. Failing that, an evaluation is ordered. In real life, this means that many children are not evaluated properly for several years and by that time there are major gaps in their learning and acquisition. We do know of several methods for remediating dyslexia, although they often involve multiple hours a week of tutoring on a one-on-one basis and some school systems are simply ill-equipped to provide those types of services for children.

Most children that we see here at the clinic with dyslexia are bright and capable children who become increasingly frustrated with school because they are unable to bring their intellect to bear on many of the activities they are asked to perform in the school system. Even subjects in which they find much enjoyment are limited in terms of their ability to access the material because so much of it is done through written form. They often look poor on standardized reading and math testing; but because they are bright they can usually “muddle along” just enough to escape attention until they have fallen several years behind by middle school.

Treatment for Dyslexia

Fortunately, several treatment methods have been developed over the years that lead to a “normalization” of the reading system within the brain on imaging studies and to a dramatic increase in reading scores on educational tests. Only a trained professional can determine if your child has a developmental delay, dyslexia, or some other condition that is impacting their reading; but these are often critical evaluations to get done early since the remediation process can take 12 to 24 months.

I have evaluated hundreds of children for this condition and seen rather dramatic improvements when these children are placed in evidence-based programs for even a short amount of time. I urge all families who have children who struggle with reading to at least get a consultation with a trained professional to determine an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment planning.

School Conferences: 3 Topics That Must Be Discussed

Parent teacher ConferenceParent and teacher conferences are soon approaching.  This is an exciting time for parents, as it serves as the first means of identifying how their children have been progressing thus far in the school year.  However, too many times parents leave the conferences with more questions than answers.  This is a hectic time; teachers are extremely busy, as they have twenty some conferences to prepare for themselves, and parents are often in a rush and feel unprepared.  Here are several ideas and guidelines for making the most out of a conference.

It is important for parents to make the most of the fifteen or so minutes that are planned for the conference.  Teachers usually have an idea of what they want to discuss during the meeting, and more often than not, the focus is on the child’s academic work and behavior within the classroom.  Parents, please develop and write down an outline of what you want to discuss during the meeting.  Like any structured meeting, the agenda must be decided by both parties.  It is important to identify what the current concerns are, as well as what your (as parents) ideal outcome is from having the meeting with the teacher.  Read more

Organizational Strategies For Grammar School Students

Are school mornings hectic and stressful? Do the evenings fly by in a blur? Whether they’re in kindergarten or fifth grade, helping your children stay organized will help to get you out the door in the morning and leave more time for family fun at home in the evening.Unorganized Books

Here are a few organizational strategies you can use to get them better structured:

  • Organization for any family starts with a solid daily routine. This will help things to run smoothly once kids come home from school. Scheduling TV time, homework, dinner and a consistent bedtime will help the evenings move along like clockwork rather than chaos.
  • Checklists may be helpful in keeping kids on track with the family routine. Allowing them to check off what they have accomplished gives them ownership and increases their independence.
  • As the daily routine of the school year sets in, your child may require reminders to look through their backpack for any important papers to give you, assignments for the day, or upcoming school events. Building this process into the after school routine will help everyone stay on the same page and up-to-date with what needs to be completed.
  • Establish a designated area for backpacks, lunch boxes, show-and-tell items and other school supplies. An area close to the door will help your grade school student remember all of their supplies for the day’s events.
  • Help your student establish an organizational system for school. Binders with folders for each class or a labeled accordion-style folder will help them complete homework and meet deadlines. This strategy will stick with them for years to come.
  • Create an area for your child to complete homework that is free from too many distractions and allows for concentration and focused completion of homework and school projects. Making pencils, paper, and other necessary supplies easily accessible will help them to complete their assignments in a timelier manner.
  • If your child resists sitting down to complete their homework or becomes fidgety after sitting for too long, it may help to set a timer (5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes) and when it goes off give them a movement break. This provides an end point and may help them focus; giving your child a break during homework time is also helpful in keeping them motivated and on task.
  • Talk with your child’s teacher to identify what organizational strategies they will be using in the classroom in order to promote consistency at home.
  • Help your student use a daily planner to keep track of assignments given each day in school. Making a bulleted list for each class may remind them to fill out their planner each day.
  • Help your student to break down long-term projects into more manageable steps. This skill will prevent them from waiting until the last minute to complete the project, and will be beneficial into middle and high school.
  • Reviewing your child’s homework and recognizing their effort and accomplishments will motivate them to continue working hard.

 What is your best practice for organizing your child?

Click Here To Download Your Free Executive Functioning Skills Checklist

Zero Tolerance: Should 7 Year Old Boy Be Expelled From School For Bringing A Toy Gun?

A 7 year old boy in Florida last November was expelled from school for having a toy gun in his backpack.  A year later he is still expelled and everyone from the news to parent organizations are torn as to whether the Zero Tolerance Rule has gone too far or if it is appropriate.

Zero Tolerance Sign

Children naturally love to show and tell.  They find anything they can and “hide” it in their backpack.  Sometimes they take it out, sometimes they forget it, and sometimes they just decide to leave it there and play with it when they get home.  There are so many children with toy guns, and rarely do they just use their fingers to “shoot” during their imaginative games.  With nerf guns, dollar store plastic guns, water guns, chocolate guns, candy guns, and countless other varieties, where do we draw the line?  

If this is a family with a history of bad behavior and gun usage, then there may be some more power to the story. If this is a child with many psychological problems including behavioral and aggression, then we would have to discuss more. However, simply bringing a plastic toy gun to school and being expelled from school at the age of seven is a tough one.  Would it make more sense to give the parents the consequence for even buying it for him?  For not checking his backpack?  For negligence?  At least the kid would still be in school.     

What if he was ten and had that plastic gun?  I would ask the same questions.  If he is a kind and sweet seven-year-old or ten-year-old from a good family, would having a toy gun be so bad?  Many times adults take things out on the children instead of the parents.  Many times the adults are quick to punish without really trying to understand the underlying reasons behind a child’s actions.  

If a student brings a toy gun to school, should the parents be held accountable or not?

Should he still be expelled?

Share  your opinions in the comments on this story below: