The Social-Emotional Side of Children with Learning Disorders

It is well known that kids with learning disabilities face academic challenges.  Academics are often the focus of interventions with these children, but it is important to also pay attention to the impact on their social-emotional development.  Read on for ways to make sure this critical aspect of your child’s development is not overlooked. Read more

ADHD and Learning: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder’s Impact on Learning

Many children with a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder exhibit significant concerns with regard to their academic

ADHD and learning diability

achievement.  Research has demonstrated that a lot of children with the diagnosis also have a co-existing diagnosis of a learning disability.  However, even children without a separate learning disability diagnosis are also at risk for struggling with their academic achievement.

The hallmark feature of ADHD is inattention.  If a child has significant inattention and distractibility, he or she is unable to listen to the teacher and follow directions.  These children often present with impulsivity or hyperactivity, which can result in concerns with behavioral functioning in the classroom environment.

Another area of concern for children with ADHD is poor executive functioning which could have an impact on a child’s academic performance.  Executive functioning is the child’s ability to organize work, transition between tasks, develop effective problem solving strategies, and monitor one’s work.  Read more

Summer Interventions for a Better Report Card

With the end of the school year quickly approaching, parents are often left to wonder about what to do during the summer to ensure

Summer interventions for a better report card

that the transition to the next school year goes smoothly.  One key piece of information in determining summer plans is the content presented in your child’s final report card.  It is vital that parents take the child’s final report card seriously and utilize the information from it to develop any areas of weakness shown during the previous school year. Read more

Benefits of a Slant Board

There are many reasons to invest in a slant board for your child, including benefits in handwriting.  A slant board typically consists of aslant board flat surface positioned at an angle with clips or anchors to hold materials (such as paper and books) in place.  They come in a variety of sizes and angles, and some are even adjustable. 

Below are several benefits of slant boards for your child for use both in and out of the classroom:

  • Promotes fine and visual motor skills- The angled position of the slant board promotes better placement of the shoulder, arm and hand.  It is therefore providing a better position to work on skills such as writing and drawing.  The position of the board also brings the paper closer to the child and makes it easier to see.
  •  Promotes an efficient marker grasp- The best hand position for handwriting and holding a writing utensil is in wrist flexion. The angled position of the slant board promotes this position, which provides better support for holding a pencil appropriately.  This position may also assist in applying just the right amount of muscle force in holding a pencil.
  •  Provides an easier to reach work surface-For children who have difficulty reaching the entire paper while flat on a desk, the slant board provides an easier distance to reach from the top to the bottom of the page, while also keeping the paper stabilized.
  • Helps with posture- Typically, writing or reading on a flat surface utilizes an inefficient posture, as seen through slumped body position, elevated shoulders, and looking down consistently. The slant board brings the line of vision higher, which encourages looking down to promote an upright posture.
  • Allows visual tracking for reading Placing a book or other reading material on a slant board may reduce eye strain. The child does not need to refocus their eyes as they scan through a page since all text remains at the same angle.

There are many slant boards on the market to choose from! It is best to choose one made of stable material and with an adjustable slant. The slant board can be used at home or at school, or anywhere that you child engages in writing, reading or drawing!

 To watch a 2 minute video on how to improve handwriting in children, click here!


8 Tips to Ease Homework Time Stress

For many families of middle and high school students, evening time becomes a stress-filled time for everyone. This is due to the fact homework stressthat tired and over-scheduled kids fight to focus to complete their homework. Fortunately, this time can become much more relaxed and productive with a few tweaks to routines and tips to help students to manage their time and work better.

8 Tips to Ease Homework Time Stress:

  1. Start with goals: Prior to making any changes to a homework routine that is not working, sit down with your child to identify their goals around their homework time.  Do they need to create more time?  Focus more effectively?  Remove distractions?  Get started earlier?  A meaningful plan can then be created from these goals with all family members on board.
  2. Create a dedicated space:  All too often, kids complete their homework with a host of distractions nearby: T.V., Internet, phones or other family members doing other things other than work.  Homework is best completed in a quiet space that is free of all distractions.  If the Internet is needed for research, this should be done during a specific time set aside for this purpose. Phones and televisions should be off.
  3. Create a plan: Before tackling any homework assignment, kids should set up a schedule that includes what assignments need to be completed and an estimate of how long each assignment should take to complete. These assignments should then be ordered according to their due date and difficulty level.
  4. Break down big assignments: When creating the homework plan for the evening, it is important to also take into consideration of any long term assignments that have been given. Divide these assignments into several (3-10, depending on the assignment) parts to complete over the course of the time until the assignment is due. Then, the big project is easily absorbed into the week, instead of being a shock the day before it’s due.
  5. Take regular breaks: Kids are unable to focus for longer than 45-50 minutes at a stretch. Plan 10-minute breaks into each hour of homework. The best breaks include some physical movement and/or fresh air.
  6. Keep track of paper: Students should keep assignments and notes for each class in a separate folder or section of a notebook. After completing each assignment at home, papers should go directly back into the appropriate folder.
  7. Identify circadian rhythms: Is your early bird trying to complete homework at 10:00 p.m.? Is your night owl frantically trying to finish homework the morning before school? Work with your child’s natural cycles in order to determine the best homework time for them, given other commitments. An early bird may benefit from rising an hour earlier to get work completed.  A night owl may focus best getting starting after dinner.
  8. Study Smart: Kids learn in many different ways. For example, take a look at Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory in order to identify the way your child learns best. Tailor study time to their strengths. For example, interpersonal learners prefer to interact while learning, therefore, quizzing aloud and studying in groups would suit them well.
If homework time continues to be a struggle for your family, contact one of our Academic Specialists at North Shore Pediatric Therapy. Our Academic Specialists can create a homework time plan specific to your child and family’s needs.


Phonics versus Phonemic Awareness ~ What’s the Difference?

Phonics involves seeing letters individually and connecting each one to a specific sound. Letters are broken down into consonants and Child Alphabetvowels. Vowels are broken down into long and short sounds and words are taught by beginning and ending sounds. The order in which letters are taught is in conjunction with typical child development.

What is Phonemic Awareness?

Phonemic Awareness involves the understanding that spoken words are made up of individual sounds; these are known as phonemes. A child who is phonemically aware is able to isolate sounds, manipulate sounds, blend and segment sounds orally and in written words. Essentially, it is the ability to hear the different sounds in speech. Students may not recognize the written letter that accompanies the sounds, but he or she will recognize it in speech. Therefore, phonological awareness comes before phonetic skills.

The following is a simple separation of these two important pre-reading skills:

Phonemic Awareness

  • Main focus is on sounds, or phonemes
  • Deals with spoken language
  • Primarily auditory
  • Students work with manipulating the sounds within words

Phonics

  • Main focus is on graphemes/letters and corresponding sounds
  • Deals with written language, or print
  • Both visual and auditory
  • Students work with reading and writing letters based on their sounds and spelling patterns

Phonics and Phonemic Awareness are similar; however, they serve two distinctive purposes. Proficient use of both skills is the first step in the journey of becoming literate. Despite the many studies and educational debates on teaching these reading skills and others, one thing has remained certain. The more a child is read to the better his or her reading skills will be.

5 Activities to Help Your Preschooler Become a Reader

Learning to read is an intricate process that begins during infancy and continues through the first few years of elementary school. Partpreschool reading of this process includes awareness that words are made of up of sounds; and that those sounds correspond to letters.

Here are some suggestions to encourage literacy development in your preschooler:

  1. Point out environmental print, which refers to text on familiar labels, logos and signs. Some examples include stop signs, food labels and store names.
  2. Use ABC puzzles, books, magazines and environmental print to identify letters. You can cut out pictures from magazines that have sounds that begin with each letter and put them together into a book with your child. In addition, ask your child to find letters in his/her name on pieces of environmental print. Read more

Is Your Child Just Disorganized, or Is It a Bigger Problem?

Do you find that your evenings and mornings are primarily spent helping your child track down missing work or lost items andmessy child generally trying to help them get organized enough to manage their school day and extra-curricular activities? Is assisting your child too much interfering with family time and leisure time? Is this causing your family and your child stress? This scene is common in many families with middle and high school children that should be starting to manage their own lives. These problems are often caused by a weakness in Executive Functioning Skills: the skills that allow us to manage ourselves and our time with the resources we have. These skills are critical when it comes to being successful in school, but these skills are not often not taught in the classroom.

 The following are the Executive Functioning skills:

  • Emotional Control:  The ability to regulate emotions in order to stay productive and complete a task
  • Initiation: The ability to start a task independently
  • Planning/Organization: The ability to plan and organize one’s time, assignments and activities effectively
  • Shift: The ability to move from one task to another
  • Working memory:  The ability to hold information in the mind for completing a task
  • Inhibitions:  Stopping impulses at the right time in order to stay focused and accomplish the task at hand

Executive functioning coaching addresses weaknesses in executive functioning skills. Executive functions develop throughout childhood and continue to develop into early adulthood. Often, executive functioning difficulties become apparent for the first time during adolescence (although they may reveal themselves earlier). Poor or underdeveloped executive functioning skills may result in several difficulties for children, including emotional difficulties, risk-taking behavior, compulsive behaviors and attention problems. All of these may ultimately cause many issues in the self-esteem and functioning of the child and family, both in and out of school.

If executive functioning weaknesses are suspected, a neuropsychologist will be able to diagnose specific areas that need to be improved. A directed, executive functioning coaching program designed to address these challenges will result in a marked improvement in the current and future functioning of the child. North Shore Pediatric Therapy offers both individual executive functioning coaching programs and intensive workshop experiences to teach these vital skills. Contact us to schedule your appointment today.

*Cooper-Kahn, Joyce, Dietzel, Laurie. Late, Lost and Unprepared: A Parent’s Guide to Helping Children with Executive Functioning: Woodbine House Inc: 2008.
Rush University Executive Functioning Curriculum Training
https://www.aboutkidshealth.com.ca/En/News/Series/Executive Function/Pages/Executive Function

Handwriting Without Tears (HWT): Why it is a Great Approach to Teaching Handwriting

Handwriting is taught to children that are as young as preschool age. Children begin learning how to write the letters in their name and handwriting without tears they will usually start with their first name. Handwriting can be taught in a variety of ways, depending upon your child’s teacher as well as the curriculum within the school. It is important to teach your child in the same manner in comparison as to how he or she is learning in school in order to see the greatest success and to provide the most consistency. Overall, when teaching handwriting, it is crucial to provide your child with plenty of verbal and visual cues in order to help the child memorize the appearance and feel of the letters.

Below are some of the highlights to the Handwriting Without Tears (HWT) program, which makes the handwriting process quite successful and simple to follow for the children, parents and teachers alike:

  • HWT works sequentially, initially teaching all of the upper case letters and then all of the lower case letters. Lastly, all of the cursive letters. this process is more effective compared to jumping around.
  • HWT utilizes simple terminology to describe how the letters are formed (e.g. Big Line, Little Line, Big Curve and Little Curve).
  • HWT focuses on right/left discrimination in order to help the child determine his/her dominant hand (hand which holds pencil/utensils). It also focuses on helping the child to help him/her be aware of the right side of the body versus the left side of the body.
  • HWT emphasizes the quality of your child’s handwriting rather than the quantity (e.g. Writing 5 correct “A’s” versus writing 10 sloppy “A’s”).
  • HWT utilizes several whole-body activities to help the child in retaining the information (e.g. Music and Movement; Imaginary Writing and Letter Sizes and Places).

As you can see above, there are many perks to using the Handwriting Without Tears (HWT) Program at home and in school. If your child’s school does not use this program, you may still gain many great strategies and knowledge from the HWT website. Please feel free to  speak with your child’s occupational therapist if you have any questions or concerns about your child’s handwriting or fine motor skills. Similarly, stay tuned for my next blog on HWT Three Stages of Learning.

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5 Major Differences between an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and 504 Plan

Your child has been identified to be falling behind in school in some way. Perhaps they are scoring below expected levels on iep and 504achievement tests or maybe they are exhibiting symptoms of inattention or become easily distracted. These symptoms may be keeping them from learning up to their potential. In another case, they may have an identified medical or emotional disorder that impacts them academically. Children can have a number of challenges that may impact them in the school environment. What can be done about these challenges? There are two formal plans that can be implemented: Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan. Below are five differences between the two plans:

IEP versus 504 Plan:

  1. An IEP is for children who qualify for special education services. To qualify, your child must have a documented learning disability, developmental delay, speech impairment or significant behavioral disturbance. Special education is education that offers an individualized learning format (e.g., small group, pull out, one-on-one). In contrast, a 504 Plan does not include special education services. Instead, a 504 Plan involves classroom accommodations, such as behavioral modification and environmental supports.
  2. An IEP requires a formal evaluation process as well as a multi-person team meeting to construct. A 504 Plan is less formal and usually involves a meeting with the parents and teacher(s). Both plans are documented and recorded.
  3. An IEP outlines specific, measurable goals for each child. These goals are monitored to ensure appropriate gains. A 504 Plan does not contain explicit goals.
  4. An IEP requires more regularly occurring reviews of progress, approximately every 3 months. A 504 Plan is usually reviewed at the beginning of each school year.
  5. A 504 Plan does not cost the school or district any additional money to provide. On the other hand, an IEP requires school funds to construct and execute.

To watch a webinar called: Getting the Most out of an I.E.P, click here.

 

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