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Does your child struggle coordinating his eyes with the rest of his body?

Children with gross motor issues often expend a great deal of effort performing even simple actions like skipping, catching a ball, or jumping rope. And while most children are able to perform these activities without thinking, each activity strains a child’s memory as much as their muscles.

Consider a simple game of dodge ball, for example. In order for your child to successfully throw a ball at another child, she must coordinate several actions at once.  She needs to accurately gauge the speed at which the other child is moving, as well as guess which direction the other child might take.

At the same moment, however, she has to guess the angle and the speed at which to throw the ball. If you add in the fact that this all has to be done within the space of a few seconds, then you can probably imagine how frustrating this might be for a child whose gross motor skills aren’t up to par.

In fact, good gross motor skills (or lack thereof) are one of the ways children judge each other’s overall capability and success. A boy who can’t kick or catch a ball, and a girl who trips constantly while jumping rope, are unfortunately looked upon as less of a “boy” or “girl” than their more competent peers.

Being good at various types of athletic activities also gives kids a way to channel their natural competitiveness, showing how “cool” they are in a very public venue. After all, who gets more publicity and adulation than the school’s top athletes?

And while it is true that some children seem to be born with wings on their feet, your child doesn’t need to learn to fly in order to improve their gross motor skills. Here is a list of 7 activities you can play with your child (preferably without an audience!) that will help them master the basics:

1) Walking on the line. While this is a standard game in Montessori schools worldwide, it’s also an easy game you can play at home. Simply place a piece of masking tape on the floor in the shape of a half circle. It should be long enough for your child to go at least 30 steps.

Have your child practice walking forward, backwards, and sideways on the line. Once your child masters that, you can have her practice carrying things while on the line: for example, a tray with a glass full of water, or a lighted candle. You can also vary the game by playing music, fast or slow, depending on what skill you want your child to master.

2) Use a balancing beam. In order to play this game, you needn’t buy an expensive balance beam. You can make one easily enough with a plank of wood, and two bricks or concrete blocks. A low wall is also a good choice – and you won’t have to worry about storing anything, either.

Practice the same sorts of activities as above, gradually increasing the height of the bricks as your child becomes more proficient.

3) Place rope loops on the floor. You can use ropes, or small hoops for this game. Encourage your child to practice first walking in and out of each loop without falling. Then, have them pick up the pace, using music if that’s easier for them to follow.

Once they master walking, try having them jump, skip, or hop in and out of the loops.

4) Roll a ball with their feet to a partner. Have your child sit down on the floor. Explain to them that the object of the game is to kick the ball to their partner, without touching the ball in any way. If they are able to kick the ball straight to the target area (have the partner spread their feet apart), then they get a point.

If the other person misses the ball, then they get another point. Mix things up a bit by putting a time limit on the game.

5) Practice various jump rope activities. Games such as jumping over a wriggling rope, hopping over a slightly raised rope, and plain jump rope are great ways of helping your child strengthen her gross motor skills. Spice things up a little by singing a few jump rope chants.

6) Monkey bars are a great way of strengthening the upper body and arm muscles. You can encourage your child to use their own muscles, but provide support for them by holding them midway between the knees and the feet. This gives them the security of being held but still allows them to practice holding on and swinging themselves from one bar to the next.

7) Schoolyard games such as kickball, dodge ball, and high jump are also good ways of practicing more complex motor skills. The bonus: your child will be less embarrassed to play them at school if he gets to practice (again, in private-go to a park a distance away from your house if necessary) in a less stressful environment.

These games are actually great for the whole family. Why not make a family sports day once a week, and let your whole family have a chance to exercise, and spend quality time together?



Originally posted 2011-07-07 20:56:12.

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boy in classroom

Special education inclusion can be successful when you follow these tips:

1.    Be sure your child’s IEP describes what he needs, who will provide it, and how his progress will be evaluated. The goals should cover a variety of areas, such as social skills, and daily living skills, in addition to educational goals. Your child’s success in mainstreaming is dependent on more than whether he can read or write. In fact, it is possible for a child to be doing well educationally but fail at mainstreaming because of social adjustment problems, or through poor hygiene or grooming issues.

The goals need to be solution focused: they should state what your child needs to do, not what he is doing wrong. They also need to be broken down into small steps, so that your child will be able to accomplish them.

Do not allow a goal that says, “Cassandra will stop fighting with other children in the classroom.” When does she fight? How often? What should she do instead of fighting? How much of her day do you expect to be free of fighting? Is that a reasonable expectation? What consequences (positive or negative) will take place when she fights, or when she chooses to find another solution to the problem?

Be sure it is very clear who will work with your child to achieve the goal. Be very specific; writing “a staff member” can lead to the “everyone was supposed to do it, so no one did it” problem. The goal should say “main teacher, recess monitor, etc.” Ideally it would be even better to have the names of those responsible written into the goal.

Make sure there is some sort of system set up for making sure the goal will be worked on. When will the aide practice role-playing with your child? For how long?  And even more importantly, how will she know when your child has accomplished the goal? Again, being specific is the key. Usually a goal is accomplished when a child can perform a particular action 80-90% of the time. Some things might require 100% compliance, like physical aggression towards other students.

Usually you shouldn’t go lower than 80% in terms of accomplishment. Anything less than that is either frustrating for the staff and child to work on, or doesn’t really need to be worked on right now. If you think your child will not be able to make it that far after 3-6 months, then you need to rework the goal to one that she will be able to accomplish.

2 Make sure the IEP contains information about what has helped your child  succeed in the past. This can be based on what you have seen work at home, or on what other teachers have found is helpful in past years. If you know a teacher who was particularly successful with your child, ask them to write a few paragraphs about what they did with your child. Ask if they will allow other teachers to consult with them. Bring it with you to the IEP meeting; this way anyone who works with your child will also have access to this valuable information.

Again, always be specific. If your child has crying spells and responds well to comforting, write exactly how she needs to be comforted, and about how long she needs to be comforted. It may seem unnecessary, but it isn’t. Different people have different ways of doing things, and what you thought was obvious may be completely foreign to someone else.

3. Make sure to maintain regular contact with the people that work with your child. This means teachers, teacher’s aides, therapists, pull-out specialists, etc. This doesn’t mean that you need to be in contact with the speech therapist as often as you need to speak to your daughter’s teacher. Nor does it mean you need to speak with your child’s teacher every other day.

In the beginning of the year you will need to give the teacher about two or three weeks to get everyone settled and to get to know your child. After this it’s a good idea to maintain weekly written contact, through a notebook or e-mail. You should also speak personally to the teacher at least once a month; twice a month if there are more critical issues going on. It’s sometimes disconcerting and a little scary, but it has to be doen, since you need to hear how the teacher feels about your child. Does she talk about him with a warm, caring tone? Or is she dismissive? Sometimes this only comes out in a one-on one conversation.

Monthly contact with other specialists is most likely enough. During these phone calls, your goal is not only to find out how your child is doing-again refer to specific goals-but also to share information that you’ve gleaned from your talks to other professionals. This helps everyone work together.

If you have a case manager that does this for you, that’s great. You will still need to be in contact with the teacher, but you can leave the other professionals to the case manager, who you will contact on a monthly basis for updates.

4. Remember that your child’s teacher is your ally. It’s not easy nowadays being a teacher. Teachers nowadays are faced with large classes, and are dealing with children with all types of issues, many of which they may have received little or no training in.

Whenever an issue comes up with your child, always try and see it from their point of  view. This doesn’t mean you have to excuse unacceptable behavior, but it does mean you approach the situation determined to find a solution, without blaming and judgment calls. Show your appreciation by showing up at the school (your child will probably object to bringing it) once or twice with a delicious desert, accompanied by a short note of appreciation for all the work she does. It’s also nice to give a teacher- appropriate gift at the end of the year, with a note of thanks. Visit a teacher supply store for ideas.

5. Be supportive, not overbearing, to your child. Sometimes parents are so worried that their child will be successful at school that they micromanage their child. When their son or daughter gets home, they may pepper the child with questions about his day in an attempt to gauge how things are going. If something goes wrong, they may overreact, or give advice, or try too hard to smooth things over.

If you have good channels of communication set up with the school, you won’t need to rely on your child to find out how things are going. If something does go wrong,  and your child is at fault, then you will need to address the situation. If the teacher is at fault, be careful not to rant and rave about the teacher in front of your child.

First of all, you probably don’t have all the details of what happened. Second of all, even if you despise the teacher, if your child sees or hears you badmouthing the teacher, she will very likely do the same, which will only cause more problems.

The most important thing to remember is that your child is more than the sum of her deficiencies. She is a special person; not because of her disabilities, but because she has something special to give to those around her.

Originally posted 2010-07-08 00:29:02.

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