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What, you can’t imagine why looking under the bed for that elusive hairy monster with beady black eyes could be a good thing?

Actually, being able to imagine things –even unpleasant ones- is critical to your child’s development. Here’s why:

1) Being able to picture things in his mind is the first step towards abstract thinking.

When your child brandishes a stick and calls it a sword, it shows he can use one object to represent another. That means he will be able to conceptualize something that isn’t right in front of him. He’s no longer limited to the here and now. He is now the shaper of his future.

2) Imagination helps children realize that there are consequences to their behavior.

Everything that we do has a consequence. Consequences, however, are not necessarily negative; they simply mean that when you do one thing, something else happens.

As a baby your child learned that when they cried, you came. They also learned that when they shook a rattle, it made a noise, or when they kicked their feet, their body moved. As a children get older, they can use their imagination to picture their behavior, and to imagine the response that takes place.  That allows them to experiment with things in their mind without actually having to carry out the act.

Instead of grabbing her favorite toy from her little sister’s hands, your child can now anticipate that a crying sister means an unhappy mom. Translation: I’d better find a different way of getting my toy back.

3) Pretending lets children have in fantasy what they can’t have in reality.

We can’t always have what we want, nor is it always best to. Your child can enjoy the fun of sleeping out in the wilds of Africa, going to the ball in a pumpkin coach, or experience what it’s like having a friend who knows exactly what you like.

4) Play can help your child express his feelings safely.

Most parents know that children’s emotions show up in their play.

You don’t, however, need to be a play therapist in order for your child to benefit from expressing her feelings through play. Ever put a child in time-out, only to see your child putting their beloved bear in time-out also?

You can use that opportunity to help your child understand her feelings about being disciplined with a simple, “Oh, so your bear had a hard time listening today?” Or, you can just watch and enjoy the show;  either way, your child has an opportunity to express how she feels without criticism.

Originally posted 2011-04-03 15:19:13.

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It’s an epic battle on the home front. You, your child, and tonight’s homework.

You know your parental duty: make sure your kid does his homework so he can progress in life. Even though you spent at least a third of your life with the ol’ chain and ball, you can’t really see any other way the work can get done. And besides, what will the teacher say?

Your child, on the other hand, not only sees homework as worthless (almost), but has had years of experience trying his hand out at work that’s too hard, too long, or doesn’t make sense.

Impasse – of the worst sort.

Unfortunately, studies show that there is no correlation between homework and academic achievement. On top of that, there aren’t even any studies that can prove doing homework builds a sense of responsibility either.

However, if you have to do homework – and most children do-then there are several methods you can teach your child to help them minimize the time they spend studying while maximizing the amount of material learned:

1) Make sure your child knows what need to be learned.

Perhaps it seems obvious, but often children –especially those with learning disabilities- don’t know exactly what material is important, and what isn’t. That means they can spend a huge chunk of their time on memorizing facts that are relatively unimportant.

Once your child knows what he needs to memorize, make sure he knows what type of material he needs to memorize: are they ideas, facts, or how to do things?

2) What will your child use to study?

Often the material that your child needs to study is scattered among different sources: a textbook, a study manual, a homework guide, and class notes may all have material your child needs to review. Have your child make a list of where the material is to be found, and check it off as they study from that source. That way, they won’t accidently forget to study a crucial bit of material.

3) Help your child decide how they will condense the material.

Often children with LD have no clue exactly how to study. They may glance at a textbook, or flip through a notebook with no real understanding of what they’re studying. Your child can choose one (or more) methods of condensing the material they’ve studied.

Making diagrams, underlining or highlighting, creating a written or taped summary, making a list of key concepts or questions, and drawing a picture of important concepts, are all methods children can use to remember what they’ve learned.

4) Have your child estimate the amount of time they will use to memorize the material.

One of the biggest things that frustrate kids when studying is imagining the amount of time they’ll have to spend studying all that stuff. Often, their estimate of how long it will take is usually wildly off. Encourage your child not only to estimate the amount of time they expect to spend memorizing the material, but the best time for them to study the material.

Also, have them specify exactly how they will memorize (versus condensing) the material. This can be anything from your standard repeating the material over and over (least effective), to making pictures, to creating a story about it using software.

5) Make sure your child self-tests.

Research shows that self-testing is one of the most effective ways to study. Your child can write his own questions, make a quiz online, or simply ask herself questions based on the material she created in Step three.

The key is to make sure she’s not just going over the material, but actually having to search for the right answer in her brain. Not only will she store the information better, but she’ll have a better idea what material she doesn’t know yet.

6) Have your child schedule on a calendar when they will do each step above.

Ideally your child should spread everything out over a few days, since cramming is probably the worst thing a child with LD -usually facing memory issues, concentration issues, and gaps in understanding- could possibly do.

However, if you and your child find yourselves facing the Big One the night before, spending 10 minutes or so making a studying plan will help keep your child focused on what needs to be done. As a bonus, when your child moans “how much more of this do I have to do?” you can just point them to the study plan.

You can get a study plan for your child here.

7) Celebrate reaching the finish line.

Every good effort deserves a reward, and studying certainly qualifies for that. Why wait for the results of the test to give your child a pat on the back for a job well done? After all, once your child has completed the whole study plan, they’ve certainly done their best to study the material – how they do on the test after that is irrelevant.

So bring on the chocolate!

Originally posted 2011-04-05 22:45:03.

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