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Making School Day Routines Easier with a Schedule

With school in session, it is important to solidify those morning, after school, and nighttime routines.  Using schedules provides predictability, encourages independence, and aids in transitions with your child.

Mother and daughter planning a schedule

Here are some quick tips to help make morning and nighttime routines easier with a schedule:

Types of Schedules:

A schedule can be created for any routine, such as bathroom, dressing, leaving for school, or after school routines.  For example, “Eat breakfast, brush teeth, and grab backpack” can be used for a morning routine, or “Eat snack, do homework, have 20 minutes of free time” could be used for an after school routine.

Location of the schedule:

Schedules should be placed where they are most accessible to your child.  If you are trying to promote independence while dressing, place a schedule on your child’s closet or dresser.  Bathroom schedules can be placed on a mirror, and morning/after school schedules can be placed on the refrigerator or door.

Using Pictures:

Pictures are great visuals for younger children or children who have difficulty understanding spoken language. Pictures can be drawn on a dry erase board or mirror, found on a computer (i.e., Google images), or cut out from a magazine.

Including your child:

Encouraging your child to help create his or her own schedule will increase comprehension and motivation for the responsibilities.  It is important to complete schedules before the routine begins.  For example, morning and after school schedules should be completed the night before.  Night schedules could be completed before dinner.  Your child should manipulate his or her schedule by moving pictures from the “to do” to the “all done” pile, or crossing off written tasks.

Flexibility:

Having some flexibility with your child’s schedule is okay, as long as the schedule is set before the routine begins and the arranged schedule is followed.  Rearranging the sequence of tasks, giving your child choices, and introducing new activities allow for flexibility within schedules.

Setting routines and implementing schedules should help make life a little easier.  If you have any suggestions that make your morning, afternoon, and nighttime routines easier, please share them below.

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Smartphone Technology and Language Development: Pros and Cons

iPads, iPhones and apps.  Today’s buzz is all about Smartphone technology and what “apps” will benefit development and academic skills in children.  Parents frequently request recommended apps to best address their child’s speech and language skills.  After all, we want to take advantage of the latest learning tools and most cutting edge technology to help our kids succeed.  However, use of Smartphone technology should be approached with caution.  Like all good things, moderation is key.

Here are a few important points to consider before integrating Smartphone children on phonestechnology into your child’s daily routine:

Pros: What are the positive benefits of Smartphone technology?

  • Smartphone apps provide excellent “drill” style activities to teach specific skill sets, such as vocabulary building, phonologic awareness, articulation skills, and learning new concepts.
  • Devices such as tablets, Smartphones and iPads expose children to modern day technology, improving their computer literacy and ability to navigate such tools.
  • Smartphone apps provide a fun and entertaining activity for children. This can be excellent choice for breaks from homework, rewards or car-rides.

Cons: What are the negative effects of Smartphone technology?

  • Smartphone apps promote passive learning and provide little opportunity for creativity, social interaction, problem-solving, sustained attention, ideation, and make-believe. All of these skills are foundational to development in children by promoting motor skills, language learning, problem-solving, and social skills.
  • While Smartphone apps may encourage children to talk or practice sounds, they do not encourage children talk to an actual person. Language is a reciprocal social system, intended for communication between people. It’s critical that children learn to communicate with others in a reciprocal context.
  • Smartphone apps do not promote the use of novel language.  A critical part of language development includes the ability to arrange words into combinations, building sentences to communicate their thoughts and ideas.
  • Smartphone applications offer little opportunity to learn social skills. Social skills include interpreting nonverbal cues, making eye-contact, initiating conversation, and responding to others.
  • When it comes to learning, practicing skills in context is critical. So even though Smartphones might teach children new skills, they do not offer opportunities for children to generalize these skills in a real-life context.

So what can parents do?

Here are a few practical steps as families navigate their child’s use of tablets, Smartphones and iPads:

  • Think moderation. Limit your child’s use of electronics, and set boundaries ahead of time so your child knows what to expect.
  • Encourage activities that encourage creativity, social interaction, problem solving, sustaining attention, ideation, and make-believe. A few good choices include blocks, dress-up, play-doh, books, pretend food, and baby dolls.
  • Spend face-to-face time with your child every day. Encourage your child to participate in play with you and encourage their use of their language, facial expressions, eye-contact, and engagement.

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Creative Ways to Help your Child Work on Handwriting

Working on handwriting at home can feel like a lose-lose battle for parents and children alike.  It can be a challenging and/or least preferred activity for children, which makes it hard for parents to want to implement and follow through with.  While handwriting is certainly an activity which your child’s occupational therapist or academic specialist can help with, it is extremely important to expose your child to handwriting consistently at home on a daily or weekly basis.

Boy writing

Below are different creative writing ideas to get your child practicing his handwriting with less hesitation!

  • Write the family grocery list
  • Copy a recipe onto a recipe card
  • Create a bucket list of activities or places to go
  • Make a birthday list (e.g. places to have next birthday party; themes for party)
  • Write upcoming events onto the family calendar
  • Write out personal goals for the upcoming school year (e.g. to be part of a school play; to join a new sports team; to get straight A’s)
  • Keep track of what you ate each day or plan meals for the next day
  • Help create a to-do list (e.g. chores; long-term homework assignments)
  • Keep track of a topic of interest (e.g. bird watching)
  • Write a book report on your favorite book
  • Make a comic book with drawings and short phrases
  • Copy jokes into a booklet format (e.g. from laffy taffy wrappers or popsicle sticks)
  • Create a list of potential outfits to wear to school or to pack for an upcoming vacation
  • Write out cards to send to family/friends
  • Paraphrase the rules to a favorite board game or card game

The suggestions above can help your child find a handwriting activity that he does not mind doing.  If it is still a struggle, offer him two options for the day (e.g. you can either write my grocery list for me or write out a card for Grandma’s birthday).  You can also try setting a timer and let your child know that he needs to write for 10 minutes or come up with at least 3 sentences (or whatever is age appropriate compared to his peers at school).  Lastly, for the first few trials, don’t feel like you have to edit or critique your child’s work, rather, just have him try to do his best work and praise him for being creative or trying something new.  There will be plenty of opportunities to work on sizing, spacing and spelling after handwriting becomes more of a routine at home.

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