Socialization Concerns in School

Many times there is an over emphasis on the academic aspects of a child’s school day.  Now, of course, academics are vital and should be put on the forefront in school.  However, what is just as important is the child’s social and emotional functioning.  Unfortunately these are often domains that are left unnoticed until they become a major problem with a child’s day-to-day academic achievement.  It is important that teachers identify any possible socialization or emotional concern that one of their students may be exhibiting, prior to it becoming a major concern for that student’s daily academic life.  Teachers should be on the lookout for various warning signs regarding socialization or emotional concerns.

Warning signs for social or emotional concerns:

  1. The child prefers to be by himself at recess.
  2. There is an increase in argumentative or oppositional behavior.
  3. The child ‘avoids’ or ‘escapes’ certain classes and situations by repeatedly going to the nurse or bathroom.
  4. The child appears more irritable or becomes easily frustrated.
  5. The child cries easily.

Many children will engage in a variety of the above behaviors at some time, and just because one or two of them appear, it does not mean that there needs to be a rush to intervention.  However, if a teacher does notice any of the above behaviors in a child, it is definitely recommended that he or she bring up this information to the child’s parent.  The parent may be able to provide some insight as well as help the child attain some needed interventions.

Signs of Reading Disability Across Grades

Reading Disability (also known as “Dyslexia”) is a disorder of phonology at its base.  It affects reading, writing, and sometimes other skills such as memorization of math facts and language expression.  We know that Reading Disability is persistent but also highly responsive to the right interventions.  Taken in part from the book Overcoming Dyslexia, written by Sally Shaywitz, M.D., I have put together the following list of common signs across grade levels that a child may be struggling with reading.  The presence of one, or even many of these clues, does not by itself warrant alarm of a problem.  However, if you suspect your child is struggling with reading, please seek an evaluation to determine the nature of the difficulties and to make sure that your child is given a fair chance in reading. Read more

A Primer for Parents on Individual Education Plans

One of the major concerns that parents face when they have a child with special needs or neurodevelopmental concerns is working with the school system in order to ensure that the child receives the best accommodations and interventions to help him or her perform to the ultimate potential.  There is legislation created that provides parents and children support and services in the school system.  The main piece of legislation that guarantees certain provisions for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities is the Individual Disability Education Act (IDEA), which had its most recent revision in 2004.  This act creates special education services as known today.

The Individual Disability Education Act has a few main components that provide children and families safeguards in the school system:

  • Concept of Zero Reject:  this states that every child, regardless of disability must be educated.
  • Nondiscriminatory Evaluation:  this requires an unbiased assessment of the child be conducted in order to help determine what special education services are most appropriate.
  • Free and Public Education:  this concept ensures the appropriateness of academic placement as well as the provision of services at no additional charges to the parent or guardian.
  • Least Restrictive Environment:  the child should be placed within the mainstream classroom as much as possible with accommodations and support. Read more

How to Teach Your Child about Bullying

The beginning of the school year is a great time for parents and guardians to talk with kids about bullying.  Bullying is a problem which affects millions of children and teenagers.  It takes place in many forms: physical, verbal, psychological/social and through means of social media.  Read on for several tips for talking to kids of any age about bullying.

Tips for talking to kids about bullying:

  1. Teach assertiveness.  Model and teach your child peaceful ways to solve problems.
  2. Teach empathy.  Talk to your child about helping others and taking action if she observes someone being hurt or hurting themselves. This is only if the situation is safe to do so.  Help build empathy in your child by talking about examples from television, movies and books.  Ask your child how she thinks others must feel in the various scenarios.
  3. Hold children accountable.  Teach your child that if she is watching someone being bullied, then she has a responsibility to tell someone; otherwise this hurts the victim also.
  4. Get to know your child’s friends.  Encourage your child to invite her friends over.
  5. Be a good role model.  Model these skills whenever appropriate.

For more bullying resources, click here to watch our Bullying Webinar or click here to read about including bullying in your child’s IEP.

Reference: http://www.ncpc.org/topics/bullying/teaching-kids-about-bullying/what-to-teach-kids-about-bullying

What to Do if You Don’t Like Your Child’s Friend

Picture this: It is Wednesday afternoon, and your fifth grade child runs off of the school bus and into your house. You hear an extra set of footsteps and think to yourself, “Oh how nice, he has a friend over.”  You enter the kitchen to greet him and his friend when you see the refrigerator AND pantry left open.  Food crumbs and wrappers are on the floor. Your son likes his things relatively clean and tidy.  Your son cleans up after himself. His friend must be over, and to be honest, he isn’t your favorite child.

If your child has one (or a few) friend(s) that agitate you, it may be difficult at times to manage your emotions about it, as well as to be supportive of your child’s friendships.  Read on for tips to help you deal with a friend of your child’s who you do not particularly like.

Tips to deal with your child’s friend you dislike:

  • Keep discussion about the disliked peer separate from discussions you have with, or around, your child. You are entitled to not favor any of your child’s peers, for whatever reason.  However, it is important that your child is unburdened by your feelings. You can deal with your feelings by talking with a spouse or friend about it, although it is best to choose just one person with whom to share these feelings. Talking to many people about your child’s friend makes it easier for the information to get back to your child. Writing your feelings out in a journal is a safe and effective way to ‘get out’ the thoughts you have about the peer as well.
  • Look for the positives in the disliked peer, and praise them. Test yourself, and try to come up with two things about the disliked friend that are positive. Simple things such as ‘they dress nice’ or ‘they have a good hair cut’ are acceptable. Just start by finding two positives. Once you find those positives, point them out to your child’s peer next time you see him (Ex.“Your hair looks nice today.” or “You played soccer very well last night in the game.”). Focusing on the positives will help you to feel slightly better about the peer, at least in that moment. The more times you point out a positive, the better you’ll feel about the individual overall. Read more

The Proper Way to Wear a Backpack

Have you ever picked up your child’s backpack and thought to yourself, “That cannot be good for her posture or back muscles!” or “How does she lift this?”  Carrying a heavy backpack can put strain on your child’s back and shoulder muscles, which can lead to bad posture and muscle aches.  A child carries her backpack for a significant amount of time during the school year, and wearing it inappropriately can impact her posture and overall health.  Read on for tips for properly wearing a backpack.

Tips for properly wearing a backpack:

  • A loaded backpack should NEVER weigh more than 10% of your child’s total body weight (AOTA, 2013).  For example, if your child weighs 60 pounds, her backpack should only weigh 6 pounds.
  • Make sure your child positions items in the backpack with heaviest items closest to the body and lightest items toward the outside of the pack.
  • Discuss organizational strategies for backpacks with your child; make sure ONLY necessary school items are in the backpack.
  • Your child’s backpack should have padded shoulder straps to prevent strain or impingement placed on your child’s shoulder muscles or nerves.
  • Make sure the backpack rests close to the child’s body and does not hang lower than her lower back.
  • If a waist belt is provided on the backpack, make sure your child wears it to help distribute the weight of the backpack more evenly on both sides of the body. Read more

Easy Ideas for Packing a Healthy Lunch for Your Child

I wrote a similar post to this last year around this time on school lunchbox meal ideas, but as a mom and dietitian, I know I am always looking for fresh ideas for my family’s meals. When putting together lunch for school, it is helpful to think of the Healthy Plate Model to make sure all bases are covered:  whole grains, protein, fruits, and veggies.

Here are some ideas in each food category to try to branch out beyond the sandwich-in-a-baggie lunch:

  • Whole grains:  Whole grain bread, whole grain crackers, brown rice cakes, whole grain tortillas, granola, multigrain chips
  • Protein:  Sunflower seed butter, nuts (if allowed at school), hummus, yogurt, tuna or chicken salad, cheese cubes or string cheese, nitrate and nitrite-free lunchmeat, edamame
  • Fruits:  Any fresh and seasonal fruits, dried fruits or fruit leathers, applesauce
  • Vegetables:  Sliced bell peppers in a variety of colors, carrot or celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, snap peas, broccoli or cauliflower pieces

Some parents might be thinking, if I pack XYZ, it’s just going to come home untouched every day, so what’s the point? Just like your kids are constantly growing and maturing, their palate and attitudes toward food are developing over time too. You never know when your child is going to give those cherry tomatoes a try, but he can’t try them unless you offer them consistently. Kids work up quite an appetite during the school day, and they are positively influenced by seeing their peers eat a variety of foods. So give your kids the chance to eat healthy, and you might be surprised!

Click here for more healthy twists on your children’s favorite foods!  For more information on our childhood nutrition programs, click here.

Vocal Hygiene

Brushing your teeth. Bathing every day. Washing your hands after using the restroom. These are all forms of hygiene that most adults practice regularly and are certain to instill in their own children as well. Although, one form of hygiene that people often dismiss is vocal hygiene. Taking steps to maintain a healthy voice is especially important for children. Children with abusive vocal behaviors can develop a breathy, hoarse, or “raspy” voice, which can be indicative of damage to the vocal folds, such as vocal nodules or polyps. Damaging the vocal folds can mean long-term voice issues that require therapy or even surgery.

Abusive vocal behaviors to watch out for in your children:

  • Throat clearing and/or coughing (may be secondary to allergies, illness, etc.)
  • Excessive crying or tantrums
  • Speaking loudly or yelling frequently Read more

Strategies to Help Your Teen Make Good Decisions

The teenage years are marked with new experiences.  Teenagers want to be independent and are drawn to exciting, new opportunities.  During this time period, chemical changes in the brain also motivate teens to seek out risky behavior.  What can parents do, then, to help their teens learn to exercise good judgment despite the internal and external motivators they have to make poor choices?

Strategies parents can use to help teenagers make good decisions:

  1. Help your teen to take positive risks.  For example, encourage your teen to try out for a new sport, visit a new place, or make new friends.  This will help instill confidence and self control in your teen.  It will also satisfy your teen’s quest for new or exciting things. Read more

4 Back-to-School Resolutions to Promote Speech and Language Skills

With a new school year starting, now is the perfect time to promote and encourage your child’s speech and language skills! Here are some helpful tips in order to set your child up for the greatest success this school year.

4 Back-to-School Speech and Language Resolutions:

  1. Easy Voice: Avoid using a harsh voice, yelling, and shouting.  This can help both parents and children maintain a healthy vocal quality. Modeling your own “easy voice” can encourage your child to keep his voice healthy too!
  2. Build Vocabulary: Targeting and explaining new “back-to-school” words can help to improve your child’s vocabulary. Increased exposure to novel words will reinforce these additions to your child’s vocabulary and will encourage usage.
  3. Read Aloud: Reading aloud to your child is extremely beneficial for language development. When reading stories, emphasizing and reinforcing new words will enhance vocabulary skills, and asking questions while reading encourages understanding. If age appropriate, ask your child to retell the story!
  4. Ask Questions: Talk with your child about the events of his day. Learn what activities occurred in the classroom, in the lunchroom, and at recess. Monitor for sentence structure and grammar, and emphasize accurate productions. For example, if your child says, “I goed to art,” respond with, “You went to art? How was it?” Read more