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Back To School: Help your child defeat anxiety and go back strong!

Boy going to SchoolHealthy Expression:

Start by helping your child express their worries, fears, problems and more in the comfort of their own home. Give them your undivided attention and find a private space away from siblings if needed. Help them find the correct labels for their feelings, ideally in their own words. Many children enjoy using creative methods of expression (e.g. drawing pictures, writing in journals, creating social stories) while some are able to spell it out while relaxing at bath time or bedtime.

Validate & Empathize

Showing your child that you respect, accept and understand their emotions serves as a big boost to their self-confidence! Sometimes this is enough to give your child the relief they are seeking. All feelings should be accepted (but not necessarily all behaviors that are often associated with negative feelings). Rather than reassuring them that you will keep them safe, let them know that yes, these things are scary and you hear their true feelings. Let them feel your belief in them—how proud, positive and excited you are! Read more

4 Ways to “Trick” Your Child to Eat Healthy Foods

 Child wont eat healthyTrying to get your kids to eat healthy could be one of the biggest challenges you’ll ever face. Their love for chicken nuggets, French fries, macaroni and cheese and pizza is likely so intense that they’re practically inseparable! But don’t fret – there are ways to try to “trick” your child to eat those healthy foods you’ve been trying to introduce since they were babies. 

1. Puree Away.

 That’s right – it’s time to bust out that food processor that’s been hiding in your cupboards. One of the best ways to try to get your child to eat fruits and vegetables is by pureeing them! Try throwing in cooked cauliflower and a little olive oil in a food processor, then mix it in a bowl of mashed potatoes.

2. Send to blender!

A great way to incorporate fruits into your child’s diet is by sending them to the blender! Try blending in half of a frozen banana in their chocolate shake, or throw a handful of baby spinach into their fruit smoothie.

3. Oven-baked fries:

Is your child a huge fan of French fries? Instead of stopping by the nearest fast food restaurant for an order, try baking your own! Slice a potato into wedges, drizzle a little olive oil on top, add salt and pepper, and bake in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. It satisfies your kids’ craving without all of the excess fat, and it’s a great way to get them involved in the kitchen!

4. Fake it ‘til they make it.

If you don’t eat as many fruits and vegetables as you should, increasing your intake will likely increase your child’s chances of eating and enjoying them, too. So go ahead – pick up that bunch of kale from the grocery store and make a batch of kale chips. You just might fall in love with it!

 What are your secrets in trying to get your child to eat healthy? Tried any of the above with success? Please share! 

How To Pack “Smart” For Your Child On Vacation

Summertime travel can be a fun and exciting experience for you and your family. Follow these tips to make the most of your vacation by keeping your children occupied and happy:

Packnig for your child on vacation

  • Before you go, prepare your child for what they can expect by making a simple schedule of events throughout the trip. Include layovers in airports, time in the car, and things you will do once you arrive. Tell your child what to expect during each event.
  • To keep your kids content during the trip, pack each of them a light-weight bag with toys, games, and books.
  • In addition to packing their favorite toys and books, surprise them with a few new and inexpensive things to do.
  • Pack a stuffed animal, blanket or other comfort item to help them adjust to sleeping in a new environment and to put them at ease along the way.
  • Don’t forget snacks and drinks! Travel can be unpredictable, so it’s best to be prepared with easy treats just in case.

Keep toys small and compact so you can take them anywhere.  A bag of small toys can go a long way when you are sitting in a restaurant waiting for your food, and stickers are great on a plane (no mess)!  Keep these items with you throughout your trip and you will be guaranteed less STRESS!

Encouraging Speech & Language Development in Infants and Toddlers

Mom reading to babyInfants immediately begin to learn from the environment around them after entering into our unfamiliar yet exciting world. The experiences they are exposed to and the people they encounter will ultimately help to shape them into the intelligent and independent children their parents hoped for. The importance of facilitating speech and language in young children is significant, and research has shown that early exposure is crucial to their development. Many parents therefore wonder what they can do to help elicit speech and language development at home, in order to help give their children every advantage possible.

Below are some simple suggestions and activities that can be easily incorporated throughout the day to help focus on these areas:

Reinforce communication by looking directly at your child when speaking and imitating them when they communicate, even if it is jargon!

• Teach animal and environmental sounds using motivating toys such as farm sets and cars.

• Talk about an activity while you are engaged in it (e.g. When cooking, talk about all of the steps and describe the ingredients).

• Point out everyday objects in the environment by expanding upon your language (e.g. When walking through the neighborhood, explain what is around you: “I see a tree. The tree is tall. The tree has green leaves.”, etc).

• Be a role model by using simple but grammatically correct speech for your child’s age.

• Associate sounds with objects around the house, as this is a precursor to phonics (e.g. The vacuum says “vvvvvv”.)

• Expand on your child’s speech and reiterate what they’ve said by modeling more complex sentences (e.g. If your child says “red car”, respond to them by saying, “You’re right, there is a big red car outside”.)

• Read books to increase comprehension and point to objects when named.

• Use preferred items to help promote language (e.g. If they have a favorite stuffed animal, use it to demonstrate brushing, dressing, bedtime routine etc).

• Use picture schedules and songs to facilitate smooth transitions (e.g. The “clean-up” song).

• Find time to communicate with your child without using technology.

• Provide choices throughout the day and reinforce successful communication.

• Have your older child expand on their utterances by having them tell you about their day (e.g. “Tell me what you did at camp today.” or “Tell me 3 things you saw at the park.”).

• Stay away from using only yes or no questions, as they do not always allow your child to formulate more descriptive sentences. Ask more specific questions when you can.

• Show your child that you are interested by listening attentively and engaging them during structured activities.

• Model appropriate behavior in social situations.

• Reinforce pretend play (e.g. cooking/kitchen sets, etc.).

• Participate in sensory-motor play (e.g. musical instruments).

• Supervise your child during play groups and encourage play-dates.

• Encourage sharing and turn taking during games and other structured activities.

• Allow your child to lead during motivating activities to give them a sense of independence.

• Expand social communication and story telling by participating in dramatic or symbolic play by “acting out” scenarios (e.g. feeding their dolls).

 

While the initial task may appear daunting and you may feel overwhelmed with trying to incorporate all of the activities into your daily routine, remember to start out slowly. Keep in mind that you may already be doing many of these activities without formally addressing them, so it may be simple to quickly add a few new behaviors to your routine. The key is to make these activities fun, so remember to expose your child to as much communicative interaction as possible throughout the day.

While parents know their children best, if something does not seem quite right, it may be advantageous to speak with a Speech-Language Pathologist about more specific activities that can further help your child. Just remember that every child is unique, and many variables may impact their own speech and language development. Follow typical developmental norms and milestones, and seek help if your child does not seem to be progressing at an appropriate rate.

Visual Calendars & Schedules: How They Benefit Your Child

Summertime brings about a more relaxed schedule that is filled with fun activities: camp, family vacations, trips to the water park. However, children with sensory processing difficulties or any anxiety tend to prefer a very predictable schedule and may feel uneasy during this time. When there is a change in routine or something new is thrown into the day, that element of predictability disappears, and the child can become anxious, upset and possibly act out as a result. He or she may not know what to expect and how to plan for new sensory experiences. After all, with each new activity comes a plethora of new sensory input such as sound, touch, movement, and sight. A visual calendar that identifies daily and weekly schedule changes can help children with sensory processing difficulties or children who have a hard time transitioning feel more comfortable with their summer routine.

Tips For Using A Visual Calendar Or Schedule With Your Child:

  • Use a calendar large enough to write down daily and weekly activities.
  • Review the calendar with your child daily so he knows what to expect for the day and for the weeks ahead. For example, “Today we will go to the beach. In 5 days, you will start camp.”
  • Cross off the days as they conclude and review what is on the schedule for the next day at bedtime, and again in the morning.
  • Be sure to include the first day of school on the calendar to indicate the end of summer.

For children with sensory processing concerns, thinking in the future can be very abstract and overwhelming. The visual calendar will be beneficial to make your child’s day to day and week to week schedule more concrete and help him or her be more organized.

Below is an example of a successful visual calendar:

Visual Calendar

Visual Calendar

Feel free to comment with how a visual calendar has helped your child!

Top 5 Pediatric Therapy Myths: Explored and Explained

Scared Girl

There are numerous misconceptions about pediatric therapy out there. I hear parents reporting to me all the time that they “heard from a friend,” or better yet, “saw on the internet” that developmental therapy does not work and that pediatric therapists “just keep kids in therapy” with no real improvement.

Below, I will address the 5 biggest myths out there regarding Pediatric Therapy:

Myth 1:   My child will “mature” and this will not be an issue.

I have heard this numerous times from parents about their children. Will the child “mature” and develop eventually? Sure, probably to some extent. My question back to them is: at what cost? What would be the consequences of not addressing the specific issues that the child demonstrates? How would these issues play out in school? Would the child be teased, bullied, or unable to progress to the best of his or her ability? There are obviously certain developmental stages that children reach at certain times, but some children develop at a slower rate than others . The goal of pediatric therapy is to enable these children to catch up with their peers and prevent later consequences. Additionally, research has demonstrated that the earlier the developmental issues are addressed, the better that child’s long term prognosis will be. Read more

Taking Off The Training Wheels

Trainig WheelsWarm weather is finally here and it’s a great time to gear up the family for bike riding.  Here are a few tips that will help ease the transition to a two-wheeler.

  1. First, make sure that the child’s bike is in good condition with properly inflated tires, working brakes, and that the seat is low enough that the child can stand on the ground when the bike is not in motion.
  2. A well adjusted helmet is essential for safety and some children may need elbow and knee pads for extra comfort and protection.
  3. The “run behind” method– where the parent follows the child holding underneath the bike seat to help them balance– is a proven technique for beginning the 2-wheeler process.
  4. Plenty of praise is essential and will keep your child motivated.
  5. The best way to teach your child to bike ride and enjoy overall fitness is to lead by example so plan some family bike riding outings today!

I would love to hear your Two Wheeler Success stories!

Raising an Independent Child

Childhood IndependenceIt’s summer time, the kiddos are out of school, and Independence Day is right around the corner!  It is the perfect time to help your children become more self-sufficient and confident by encouraging them to become more independent in their daily routines.

Where Childhood Independence Begins

Typically, children begin to demonstrate their independence by the age of two.  They may want to try everything by themselves and even act annoyed if you try to step in to help them.  This is perfectly normal and I encourage you to embrace this developmental milestone!

Bedtime should be the first area to be targeted when teaching your child independence.  Establishing a consistent bed time routine is a must.  Children should be sleeping in their beds independently.  They may still need reminders to stay in their room, but there are plenty of ways to work on getting this accomplished.  You can try giving them a signal of when they can leave their room (e.g., when the light comes up or when the clock looks like this: 7:00).  You can also keep a bin of toys in their room that they are allowed to play with in the morning.  It is very important to be aware of your reaction when they do get out of bed.  Firmly state the expectations (e.g., “Johnny, you need to stay in bed until the clock reads 7:00”) and guide them back to their room.  Do not provide eye contact or attempt to rationalize with them.  You may need to bring them back to their room several times over many days.  Don’t give up!  I promise it will get easier!

Read more

VIDEO GAME VIOLENCE: Will it affect my Child’s Behavior?

Research on Video Games and Aggressive Behavior

There has been a lot of debate about whether or not violence in video games can lead to an increase in maladaptive behaviors in children. As much as parents want to try to keep children and adolescents away from violent games, many children will find a way to play them. One research study revealed that approximately 70 % of American teenage boys between the ages of 13-17 have played the violent videogame Grand Theft Auto, in which the goal of the game is to steal cars and murder people. Another research study indicated that the less exposure that children have to violent games, the less aggressive behavior the children exhibit. Furthermore, a rather large research study concluded that aggressive video games lead to aggressive behaviors in children.

The question remains as to whether or not children who play violent video games are at increased risk to exhibit aggressive behavior; or is it that aggressive children tend to want to engage in aggressive activities? Regardless of the causality of preference for violent games and aggressive behavior, it is important to recognize that the children who play these violent games are at increased risk to be aggressive.  Read more