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Risk of OCD after Childbirth

A recent article found in the Journal of Reproductive Health (March/April 2013) that was published by researchers at Northwestern pregnancyUniversity has indicated that new mothers are four-times more likely to present obsessive compulsive disorder symptoms than that of the general population.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a condition in which the individual engages in several repetitive or ritualistic behaviors in order to help deal with intrusive, anxiety-provoking thoughts. Having a newborn is a time of increased stress and anxiety. The entire family’s daily life and expectations change. It would be abnormal for a new parent to not exhibit any anxiety or stress during this time.

If family members or friends begin to notice a new mother engaging in excessive ritualistic behaviors that change daily activities, it may be time to seek help.

Symptoms to look out for:

  • Repetitive behaviors.
  • Checking things.
  • Washing hands, putting on hand sanitizer at an excessive degree.

Do not be afraid to approach a new mother about possible concerns and to suggest possible help and intervention if need be.

How Sign Language, Singing and Reading Help Toddlers Learn to Communicate

Parents often ask if things like singing, sign language and reading will be effective in helping their child learn to communicate. The short sign language answer is, yes, yes and yes! Sign language, singing and reading to a child are all excellent ways to encourage a toddler’s expressive language. This blog will describe why and how each of these activities will benefit toddlers as they develop speech and language.

How sign language can encourage spoken language:

Language is a symbolic system, requiring the exchange of “symbols” that have meaning. For example, the word “ball” is a symbol for a round object that bounces. When children have an expressive language delay, sign language is a very effective (and well-researched) way to reinforce that symbolic system in the temporary absence of words.

Here are a few important things to consider when using basic signs with your child:

  • Pair the sign with the spoken word to ensure your child makes a connection between the two.
  • Keep in mind that communication goes far beyond spoken words; it also includes gestures (e.g. pointing, waving), facial expressions, eye-gaze and tone of voice.
  • reinforce and encourage other methods of intentional communication, while we do want children (if they are able) to eventually use speech, it’s equally important to encourage other ways that they can communicate.

How singing can encourage spoken language:

Children learn language primarily through hearing and imitating. Singing is a fun and engaging way for children to hear and imitate Read more

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

When Should You Hold Your Child Back A Grade?

Many parents are often worried and cautious about their child’s transition from kindergarten to first grade. There are unanswered kindergarten kidsquestions and concerns that the child faces. Oftentimes it may prove beneficial for the child to repeat kindergarten and have another year to develop pre-academic and social skills.

Questions that need to be kept in mind when deciding about holding the child back or moving him or her forward include:

  1. How is your child doing with learning basic academic skills? Is he or she learning all letters, letter sounds, numbers, etc? Is this an area that would need further guidance and assistance?
  2. How is the child doing socially and emotionally? Is your child able to transition readily from the house to the school environment? Does your child have friends and engage in appropriate play with others? How does your child deal with changes in routine?
  3. When is your child’s birthday? If it is a late birthday, holding him or her back might not be that major since he or she will not be much older than the rest of the class.
  4. What are the kindergarten teacher’s thoughts? She has the best opportunity to provide insight about your child’s learning styles and social functioning in comparison to same age peers.
  5. What are your thoughts as parent? Always remember that at the end of the day, you are your child’s best advocate.

Holding a child back in kindergarten is not the worst thing to possibly happen. The child has another year to mature and develop. In addition, the child is able to receive additional intervention and services in order to catch up with peers and ensure that first grade will be the utmost success. Remember, pay now or pay later. If things are pointing to next year being tough and him or her not being ready, don’t rush. It’s great to be mature for your grade.

Common Misconceptions about Augmentative and Alternative Communication

Many children who have an incredibly difficult time using spoken language will often learn to use other systems to augment their AACcommunication abilities. These other systems may include “high-tech” or speech-generating devices. They may also use “low-tech”, such as Picture Exchange Communication Systems, or PECS, in which a child gives his/her communicative partner a picture card to convey their wants and needs. Parents may have concerns about these augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems. As a result, they often wonder how they will be used to help their child’s specific set of strengths and abilities.

There are several common misconceptions about these AAC systems:

  1. “If my child uses AAC, he/she won’t learn to speak”:
    1. Research has shown that just the opposite of this statement is true. The use of PECS or other “high-tech” devices can actually help improve a child’s spoken language output. Use of these systems provides increased exposure to communication and can increase vocalizations and improve overall speech abilities. While the strongest research shows that early intervention is best, older children may still show signs of improvement.
  2. “These programs are not specific for my child”: Read more

3 Reasons Your Child Needs A Meal Schedule

Today, there is the great debate among parents to whether or not put their kids on a schedule. Should I give my child a daily routine or Family eatinggo with the flow of what they want, when they want it? In terms of feeding, schedules are very important for kids that are over 6-12 months old. Prior to 6 months old, feeding really should not be done on a schedule, but rather on demand. Breast or bottle feeding on demand helps infants learn to respond to hunger and satiety cues. In addition, it allows them to eat what they need to grow to their potential. At this age, eating is very instinctual and babies know best how much to eat and when to eat, with the exception of some cases of medical or developmental issues.

During the transition to solids, between 6-12 months of age, I advise parents to introduce a routine of “meals” from the beginning. Feed the infant at the same time as the rest of the family’s mealtime(s) every day. Then, as the child gets older, continue sticking to regularly scheduled family mealtimes and snacks that occur around the same time each day.

Below are three reasons why a meal schedule is crucial for children:

  1. Teaches good mealtime habits. Ask any parent and they will say that they have experienced mealtime struggles at some
    point. One way to eliminate mealtime struggles is to have set expectations from the beginning of introducing solids. Teach your young child that when it’s time to eat, we come to the table, sit in a high chair or booster seat and have a variety of healthy foods to eat. It makes the connection for them from the very beginning that sitting at the table means that it is time to eat.
  2. Prevents “grazing”. Grazing happens when we eat randomly all throughout the day. This can lead to over-eating unhealthy foods for older kids and it may actually lead to under-eating for younger kids. When children eat little amounts here and there, they fill up just enough to decrease their appetite for well-rounded meals.
  3. Promotes healthy digestion. Eating on a schedule means that we are filling up the gut at meals and then giving it time to empty before filling up again. The rhythmic filling and emptying of the gastrointestinal tract is the ideal pattern to stimulate regular bowel movements. Furthermore, a regular pattern of meals helps keep blood sugar balanced throughout the entire day, which helps to improve energy, concentration and moods.

If your family struggles with implementing mealtime schedules or routines, contact one of our registered dietitians to schedule an appointment. A registered dietitian can help you implement ways in which you can get your family back on track and address any nutrition concerns.


What is Down Syndrome?

Down Syndrome is thought to be the most common genetic etiology of mental retardation. This condition has been found to occur in down syndromeapproximately 1 in 800 live births. The genetics of the condition are such that the individual has an extra copy of chromosome 21.

Physical Features Associated with Down Syndrome:

  • Decreased muscle tone seen at birth
  • Excess skin at the nape of the neck
  • Flattened nose
  • Small ears
  • Small mouth
  • White short hands with short fingers

Cognitive Features Associated with Down Syndrome:

  • Moderate mental retardation
  • Weakness with grammatical aspects of language
  • Relative strength with spatial reasoning tasks
  • Verbal short term memory is more impaired than visual memory
  • Weakness with daily living skills (self-care skills)
  • Relative strength with social skills

Interventions for Children with Down Syndrome:

  • Speech and language therapy with possible addition of sign language
  • Visually-based interventions for teaching, reading and vocabulary
  • Occupational therapy for sensory integration and motor development

What are Metalinguistic Skills and What Do They Look Like in My Child?

Metalinguistic skills involve the awareness and control of linguistic components of language. Simply put, it implies the ability to thinktoddler clapping and discuss language. These skills require an awareness of others as listeners and an ability to recognize significant details that indicate changes in speech. For example, you do not usually speak to a teacher in the same way you would speak to a friend. In addition, you do not typically speak in a restaurant the same way in which you speak in a museum. Noticing what kind of speech is appropriate in various environments with various speakers is also reflective of metalinguistic skills.

These metalinguistic skills start to develop as early as one year as your child learns to monitor their own utterances and begin to repair their breakdowns in communication when they are misheard. Before the age of two, children typically learn how to adjust their speaking to different listeners: louder vs. softer, simpler vs. complex, demanding vs. requesting and peer vs. adult. Before the age of four, children should know how to recognize signals indicating that their listener understood the message spoken (i.e., such as a nod for assent and a frown signifying confusion). Children also learn to correct their own speech as well as their conversation partners’ speech. At this age, children spend a significant amount of time exploring new sounds, new words and new speech styles. As they reach their academic years, metalinguistic development continues to improve as children gain an understanding of the specific meaningful units that are associated with language (i.e., sounds, syllables, words, sentences). As a child’s mastery of language components grows, they learn to play with humor by telling jokes, riddles and puns (e.g., “What’s black and white and red (read) all over? A newspaper!”). This indicates a desire to control the use of language that was not present in the early language of children. This manipulation of language is significantly correlated to the development of pragmatic skills or the use of language.

Development of these metalinguistic skills are essential to a child’s ability to be successful in creating enlightening conversations that will serve as foundations for further learning in their lives.

Plan Ahead this Easter and Passover For Your Special Needs Child

Easter and Passover are special times during the year in which friends and families get together for a form of celebration. For many easter and passover families, these are happy times in which the event is eagerly anticipated; however, for families with children who have special needs, this can serve as a time of increased stress and potentially fear. These parents often worry about how their children will behave and react to these situations.

Below are some helpful tips that parents may utilize to make the special occasion as stress-free as possible:

  • Let the host know in advance what to expect and what behaviors the child may display. If the host has children, provide information in a kid-friendly manner so that they will be prepared.
  • Prepare your child by creating a social story or script in which the day’s events are planned and sorted out. Utilize visual schedules to help reinforce the child about what the day will look like.
  • Pick battles. Many children with sensory needs will refuse to wear a suit or dress. Plan ahead basics, such as clothing.
  • Set a time limit to the visit. If you know your child is unable to handle social situations or environments in which there is a high amount of action for more than an hour, plan on leaving within an hour of arriving. If you, as a parent, want to stay longer, anticipate this and have a babysitter or caregiver prepared to pick up the child.

Family get-togethers and religious celebrations do not necessarily need to be a fearful or anxiety-provoking event. Remember, you know your child best. If you believe that the situation may be problematic, it most likely will. Anticipate this and create strategies to ensure success for more enjoyable events

Happy Easter and Happy Passover!

Sleep Deprivation in Children and 5 Tips on How to Get Your Child to Sleep

Sleep is one of the most important activities in your child’s day but it is often overlooked as such. It is as essential as food, water, and child sleepingsafety and vital for adequate physical and cognitive development.

How much sleep does your child need? Often more than we typically expect, school-age children need 10-12 hours, with younger children needing the most, and adolescents needing 9-10 hours of sleep per night to function optimally. If your child is not getting this on a regular basis, they can become sleep-deprived. When this is prolonged, a number of problematic issues can arise, including problems focusing, mood dysregulation, and risk for falling behind in school.

How do you know if your child is sleep-deprived? Some of the signs include:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (e.g., falling asleep in the car, wanting to take naps)
  • Needing to drag your child out of bed in the morning
  • Waking up irritable and unrested
  • Problems falling asleep at night (more than 30 minutes)
  • Sudden change in emotions or behavior

Here are some tips to help your child sleep and for your entire family to get the rest they need:

  • Dim the lights: Our sleep cycle is regulated by light so try turning off or dimming lights around the house 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Avoid the “second wind:” Tune into your child in order to find the time when they begin to slow down and become tired. If this opportunity passes, children may become more hyperactive and difficult to settle.
  • Routine is key. Keep it simple and short (less than 30 minutes)
  • Oftentimes children will need help settling down. When other strategies have not worked, you may want to talk to your pediatrician about Melatonin, an over-the-counter supplement.
  • And finally, make bedtime a time in which to look forward. Use it as an opportunity to unwind from the day and bond with your child.

If you suspect that your child may not be getting enough sleep, and your attempts to alter the problem have not helped, talk with your doctor or schedule an appointment with one of our behaviorally-trained social workers and experts.