So. You’re raising a child as best as you can.

One with “issues” as they say.

Raising said child takes up a substantial amount of your time. Between the speech therapy and the play therapy, the sensory diet and the occupational therapy, it’s amazing you and your best beloved even know what the other looks like.

Now let’s imagine that even though you always keep one eye out on the horizon for the one thing that could finally be It – someone, somewhere, somehow, still finds it their duty to tell you how you should be running your child’s life.

And not just one someone – a whole truckload of someones.

Wherever you go, whether it’s the teenage bagger at the grocery store, a “concerned” mom at the local playground, a friend, neighbor, brother, sister, uncle, or goodness knows who else, everyone seems to want to tell you exactly what to do.

Actually, there are a lot of things you have to do. Bathing is one thing. Wiping after you go to the bathroom is another. And there are definitely things you have to do if you want have a particular outcome. Like, it’s a good idea to pay your electric bill on time if you like seeing when it’s dark outside.

You can’t do everything. You can’t even do half of everything.

You know it’s a recipe for failure, but can’t seem to stop yourself.

Here’s why.

[click to continue…]

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Often children with weak language development have great difficulty using words that describe where they or other objects are in space. You might find your child saying “inside” when she meant to say “outside,” or substituting under for over.

Children easily confuse these words -called concepts of space- because it is difficult for them to form a mental image of what they represent. These are words have no meaning in and of themselves; they have to be followed or preceeded by another, more descriptive word.

One of the ways you can help your child understand and remember what you mean is to play games that help him visualize what these words mean. Here are 2 games you can play with your child to help them master concepts of space:

Twister Fister

This is a variation on the popular game “Twister.” However, instead of getting all tangled up on a game mat, your child will fit themselves inside, under, over, etc. impossible spaces.


- One set of cards with descriptive words on one side. Suggested words are: inside, outside, over, under, around, next to, beside, on, and  in.

- On the other side of each card, paste a picture of an object that’s appropriate for that word. Then make an X to demonstrate where the child should place themselves.

For example, one card can have “under” written on one side, with a picture of a table on the other side. Under the table you would draw a large red X.

How to Play:

1. Put the set of cards on the table. Make sure that the side with the word is face-up.

2. Let your child choose a card from the pile. If they can read, they should read the word on the card. If not, you can read it for them.

3. They may then flip the card over and see what their task is. Explain to them if necessary that the X tells them where they should go.

Demonstrate if necessary. Be sure to emphasize the key word: “This is UNDER. Sit UNDER the table.”

4. Your child can play this game with a partner. Deal the cards out between the two children. The child who finishes their cards the first is the winner.

TIP: You can make this game harder by making a separate set of cards with only the key words on it. Your child chooses a card, and then has to find (on her own) an item where the action can be carried out.

The Farm Game

This is a classic Montessori game that you can play at home. In it, you use a farm set to teach your child space concepts. You don’t actually have to use a real farm set; you could make one out of cardboard, or you could substitute another setting, such as a police station, fire station, doll house, or other playset. You could also make up your own playset using blocks or Legos.


-Play animals or people

- Playset, as explained above.

- cards with space words written on them (see above game for detailed list)

1) Set up the playset. Your child may arrange things as he sees fit, but just make sure he has items that are appropriate for each action.

2) Have your child draw a card. She then chooses an animal or a person, and decides where to place them. For example, if she draws the word “under,” she can take the horse and place them under a toy tree.

3) Your child continues drawing cards and choosing animals or people until all cards are used up.

TIP: You can make this game a little more complicated by making up a little story as your child goes through the game. For example, you could say, “One day the little brown horse (your child then has to take the horse) was outside in the fields (she then has to place him outside in the “field”).

“It started to rain, so she ran and stood under a tree.” You and your child can take turns telling the story, if your child is able, or you can just let your child choose the animal or the action, if she likes.

Originally posted 2011-05-31 00:02:04.


help your child speak betterDoes your preschooler have difficulty describing to you what went on during her day?

Does she have trouble naming objects, substituting other words like “thingie” or “that round thing with cream inside,” instead of the real word? Does she seem to describe things in the wrong order, telling you what happened last, instead of first?

There are several reasons why your child has trouble expressing themselves. Here are a few of the most important ones:

Children who have expressive language weaknesses are usually very strong visually.

Visual thinkers often have trouble with sequencing, since they are associative thinkers. If you imagine the tag cloud on a blog, then you have a good idea of how a visual thinker processes information. Ideas are not necessarily connected to each other in a linear fashion, one idea following the other in an orderly fashion.

Instead, children may jump from one topic to another, seemingly in a random order. You might see this when your child discusses something with you. She may begin talking about the new dog her best friend has, move on to swimming class, and then end up animatedly discussing the trip you took last summer.

To auditory thinkers her thinking seems disorganized and flighty, since it doesn’t follow a logical, sequential order. For your daughter, however, there was a logical order. The dog is of a breed that is good at swimming – hence swimming class came to mind. Swimming made her think of water, which reminded her of the waterfall the family saw on the trip last summer.

Your child’s visual and auditory systems don’t work well together.

In order to process language effectively, your child’s auditory and visual system need to work together most of the time. Children who have trouble expressing themselves are sometimes so strong visually that their visual system shuts down their auditory system.

On the extreme end, for example with autistic children, the visual system is so strong that the auditory system appears not to work at all. Concerned parents might initially wonder if their child is deaf, but eventually notice that their child can hear sounds when they choose (are able) to.

Other children on the spectrum, for instance, children with ADHD or moderate language disorders, seem to have great difficulty paying attention. These children don’t always respond when their names are called, have trouble following directions, or have difficulty understanding what they read or hear.

A strong visual system can actually be a wonderful benefit; many famous inventors and thinkers were visual geniuses. But in order to benefit your child has to learn how to help both systems to work together.

A weak memory makes it hard for your child to remember what he hears.

One of the most difficult factors that affect how your child processes language is their ability to remember what they hear. Since there are different types of memory, different children can be affected in different ways.

For some children, what they hear seems to go in one ear and out the other. Others can practice a math fact, letter name, or history question over and over again – only to find out in the morning that it was if they had never learned the material.

Still others may perplex parents and teachers, seemingly possessed with stellar memories. These kids can remember the teeniest bit of information, whether it was 3 days ago or 3 years ago. However when you ask them to remember a particular fact, it’s as if the system has short-circuited, and they are unable to give the right answer.

All of the above can have a serious impact on children’s language skills. Fortunately, you can help your child to improve these skills. Hands on learning games that focus on these skills can make a huge difference in helping your child express themselves more effectively.




Sometimes raising kids is like riding the electric walkways you find at the airport.

You kind of lean over a bit, relax a bit as it takes you where you want to go. Then you spy that little thruway thing, and brace yourself for a brief trip in no-man’s land schlepping all of your stuff.

It doesn’t really matter how old your kids are. It doesn’t matter if you’re a single parent, a grandmother raising her grandchildren, or a two-parent family. It doesn’t even really matter if your kid (or kids) is an angel or a devil on training wheels. A problem comes up, you agonize, philosophize, poll the various parties about what to do.

Then you embark on a lengthy or not-so-lengthy “solution” to the problem. Things settle down a bit. You pat yourself on the back, enjoy the peace and quiet for a bit, and then BOOM! Kid #2 starts acting up.

I think they’ve got some sort of lottery system going.

In the beginning you don’t realize it. You come home from the hospital full of smiles, high hopes, and a bunch of unrealistic expectations. But after a while they start to grow up, and that sweet little spinach-covered regurgitation machine turns into this THING.

The first time they look at you and start singing to a different tune, it’s really cute. Maybe you even take a picture. After a while, it’s not so cute anymore, and then you realize that it’s not as cute as you thought. By the time you realize that this is it, they’re going to keep doing this for their whole bleeping life, it’s too late. You can’t go back to the hospital and insist that this can’t possibly be your child, and that somehow they must have switched babies.

Seasoned parents disagree on which is worse: dealing with the same problem over and over again (what is this, the Twilight Zone? I thought we dealt with this already) or enjoying the thrill of a brand new problem each time.

And know that the solution that worked today isn’t guaranteed to work tomorrow.

But there is one thing that I can guarantee you, and it’s this: IT’S NOT GOING TO END ANYTIME SOON. And the reason is this: your child is not a finished product. And he or she won’t be a finished product until they come to you with their own children.

Maybe not even then.

It could drive a person to start longing for the good old days of orphan trains and Oliver Twist orphanages…unless you realize that kids are really like unpolished diamonds, and you are the diamond polisher.

Keep up the work, and someday you’ll look at your child and say-hey, I didn’t do such a bad job after all.


Ever find yourself giving your child play by play instructions on doing something that should be as simple and easy as eating apple pie? 

You know what I mean – things that you’re sure your child knows how to do on their own, yet when it comes down to it, suddenly you find yourself having to tell them exactly what to do – otherwise they melt into a little pile of water just like the Wicked Witch of the West?

I found myself in this position the other day, when my seven and a half year old was in the shower. She’d already bathed and shampooed her hair, and was asking what she should do now.

Of course, this was after I’d gotten a blow-by-blow description of which body part she was washing, and how much the soap had lathered up, and…

Well. I’m sure you get the idea.

So when it came down to the last request, I must admit, I was feeling rushed, and a teensy bit annoyed. I mean, wasn’t it obvious what you should do? Did I really have to tell her? Couldn’t she figure it out on her own? Like, after you finish washing off everything there is to wash off, you just get out of the bath.

It doesn’t seem like rocket science. I mean, she’s only been taking a bath on her own for the last year and a half. I knew she was physically capable of everything she needed to be a successful bather.

Blame it on my own mule-headedness, blame it on scientific curiosity, but I refused to tell her what to do. I figured, how long would she stay there until she finally gave up and came out? She couldn’t stay in there forever, right? 8 people, one bathtub -you do the math.

Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.

Little Miss refused – or was completely unable, I haven’t figured out which- to get out until I walked her through the whole decision making process:

Me: What do you do when you finish washing off all of your body?

Little Miss: I don’t know! Tell me!!!

Me: Do you stay in the bathtub until it’s time for school the next day? Do you sleep there? Should I bring you a pillow? (hoping humor would work – I wasn’t feeling very humorous at all)

Little Miss: (Meltdown. Doesn’t bear repeating).

So I did some thinking about choices, and what it means to be independent, and came to this conclusion: it doesn’t matter one hoot if you give your child choices as long as those choices have no real consequences.

Typical parenting advice tells you “give your child lots of choices. Let them, for example, choose between two outifts and pick out what the want to wear the next day.”

The problem with that is it’s pretty much a non-choice. What difference does it make if they wear the red or the blue shirt? The blue jeans or the corduroy? The only time it really matters is if in a fit of pique your preschooler decides to wear pajamas to school.

Anyway, no mom in her right mind is going to let her child wear pajamas to school. In my house, that’s a threat: “If you don’t get dressed this minute you will go to school in your pajamas.” So it’s not like you could just let them experience the natural consequences of their choices. What would the teacher say?

I think for a lot of kids, making choices isn’t always about knowing what to do, it’s about having the courage to make the right choice – despite the consequences. And that goes right back to what I’ve been talking about lately: making sure your child understands that it’s okay to fail.

Because if we want our child to be successful, to make the choices that will help them be successful, they’ve got to be willing to take that flying leap into nothingness. Sure, you can flinch a little – we all do – but that’s just part of the process of doing what you need to do so you can get to the finish line.

Well, we’re not at the finish line yet, my daughter and I. But we’re on our way, somehow or another.



Sometimes you get to the point where you are sick and tired of rescuing your kid from disaster. children's success

It’s not like you don’t care. You do. But eventually you start to wonder if maybe your son isn’t doomed for life if you don’t stay up until 2 am to finish that (very, very overdue) science paper.

Or maybe, just maybe, your 13 year old daughter won’t melt into a puddle of steaming goo if you let her take the bus after she refuses to get out of bed on time – for the third time this week.

Somewhere in the deep recesses of your brain (the one that used to function a lot faster way back when) you know it’s not the greatest way to teach your kids responsibility, independence, or any of those other high-falutin’ ideas you used to trumpet when the kids were still cute little balls of fat that spit up on you occasionally.

But somehow watching your kids fail feels like getting a test back full of red x’s.

Wonder why? Read on.  [click to continue…]


School is right around the corner, and if you’re like most parents, you probably can’t wait until everyone is back at their desks, and gainfully occupied somewhere other than the living room. First day of school

But before you embrace a little freedom, it’s worth it to start thinking of a few simple things you can do to help your kids start things off on the right foot.

Starting school again is a big transition: a new teacher, new classroom, and new expectations.

And like all transitions, your child will make the leap from carefree hobo to earnest student a bit easier if you take the time to prepare the way:

Get Back Into the Flow of Things

You don’t have to start the first day of school with tired, cranky kids rushing around to get their things together at the last minute. Avoid the arguments and the wear and tear by reading this post on how to get your child ready for school painlessly.

Organize Beforehand

Is your child always digging around trying to find their homework notebook, or a special assignment? This post on helping your child organize their school stuff has plenty of practical advice on helping your child organize their notebooks, use a homework planner, and more.

What NOT to Tell Your Child’s Teacher On the First Day of School

Your child takes Ritalin…is a homebody…is a creative soul at heart…

It’s not uncommon for parents to feel a need to share information they feel is critical to their child’s success in school. Read this article to find out exactly what you absolutely shouldn’t share with your child’s teacher on the first day of school… or else.


You and your child have been looking forward to summer break for months.  how to prevent summer learning loss

You’ve got everything planned out: the places you’ll visit, the family you’ll catch up with. And although it’s a pain to organize everything, you’re looking forward to a little bit of down time with your family.

The problem is, you remember how last summer ended: frustration, tears, and an intense desire to get out of the hell of summer vacation and get the kids back into school.

Just what exactly happened here?

You have no idea how a pleasant summer break turned into Nightmare on Elm Street (okay, I’m dating myself here).

Why summer can end up being one long water slide to Hell.

Sure, in the beginning it looked like things were finally going to be different this year.

You and the kids scoured the internet for interesting, educational, and relatively inexpensive places to visit. You even lined up a few playdates with friends, and invested in some new toys in the hopes of keeping everyone gainfully occupied.

But unless you implement a few critical things, you’re still going to wish you could take a semi-permanent vacation far away from the beings who call themselves your children.

Out-of-whack schedules.

While the thought of not having to wake up unwilling kids early might warm the cockles of your heart, letting your kids sleep in every day is actually a bad idea.

Not only does it mess up your child’s sleep/wake cycle – they’ll have to go to bed eventually-but it sets a bad precedent for the day.

On days when you actually do have something important to do, you’ll find yourself on top of kids who can’t seem to get their acts together, because they’re too tired and because they’ve gotten out of the habit of sticking to a schedule.

You don’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn every morning, however, in order to keep things under control. Instead, you can let your child sleep later, and go to bed later than they would normally – just make sure that the time you choose stays consistent within about a half-hour.

Letting the rules slide.

Summer seems to bring out the carefree in all of us, myself included.

But don’t confuse carefree with lax. Just because it’s break doesn’t mean you can let your kids do whatever they want – they still need to be disciplined, even when it’s a pain in the neck.

If your kid starts having a temper tantrum while waiting on line for the aquarium, or pitches a hissy fit while waiting to buy snacks at the store, don’t resort to bribes and other behavior that will only make things worse later.

Stick to your guns – even if you have to get out of the line you’ve been waiting in line for the last half-hour – and do what needs to be done.

You don’t have to be a party-pooper about it, of course.

There’s nothing wrong about bending the rules occasionally, as long as you’ve it’s a carefully thought out decision, rather than a reaction to being publically embarrassed.

Take ten minutes to think about what rules you don’t mind sliding on, and those that are important to you and your family’s sanity, safety, and well being. If you want, you can put up a “summer rules” list, so your kids will know about the changes.

If you want to be really fancy, you can make a summer contract with them (I’ll write a post about that later), but even a three minute discussion is enough to let the kids know what to expect – and what not to expect.

You don’t have to please everyone, all the time.

Sometimes parents get this idea that it’s their job to make sure everybody’s happy.

Bad idea.

Pretty much impossible.

It’s your job to make sure everyone is fed, has clean clothing and a place to stay. It’s also your job to make sure that they come out of your house with the values and beliefs that are important to you.

But happy? All the time?

Not happenin’.

Follow these suggestions, and you just might feel a twinge of regret at sending the kids back to school when the summer ends.

Did you know that your kids will forget up to 2 months of what they’ve learned over the summer?

You’ve worked hard to get your child to where they are.

But did you know that a few weeks during the summer can undermine all of your efforts?

Read here to find out what you can do to prevent that.




It’s frustrating dealing with a child who can’t follow directions. how to teach your child to listen

You know what that looks like: you tell your 8 year old to take out the garbage, get into pajamas, and feed the dog, thinking it should take about twenty minutes until liftoff.

A half hour later, you see your son standing in the kitchen in his underwear giving the dog a good back scratch.

You’d be annoyed if you could – but you know he’s not misbehaving intentionally. But this isn’t the first time he’s gotten directions mixed up, sometimes with permanent consequences.

You’ve tried numerous workbooks for grade-schoolers that claim to teach your child to follow directions, but they didn’t help at all.

Is there anything you can do, or is your child doomed to be one of the hopelessly confused?

Why having trouble following directions is just the beginning.

Having trouble following directions is just the tip of the iceberg for most kids.

That’s because being able to follow directions means being proficient at perceiving and remembering the order of things, otherwise known as sequencing. Tying shoes, reciting the alphabet in order, understanding the difference between “before” and “after” or “yesterday” and “tomorrow,” all require good sequencing skills.

Some kinds of information are meant to be processed as one whole. Remembering what your great-aunt Matilda looks like is one example. Other kinds of information are purely sequential, such as phone numbers, the order of the months of the year, or keeping track of a story plot.

These are meant to be taken in one at a time, bit by bit, in order to be understood and remembered. A child who has trouble with sequencing (and their parents) will find themselves stymied in numerous areas – despite average (or better) intelligence.

Fortunately, sequencing is a skill that can be learned. Here are some things you can do to help the child who has sequencing issues:  [click to continue…]


hands on learningIt sounds like a cliché, but there’s something about spring that brings my kids to life.

As soon as warm weather makes an appearance, shirts and pants become too short, shoes miraculously start wearing out, and a mischievous sparkle shines in their eyes.

My 8 year old wanders back into the house after what should have been a ten minute trip to the grocery store, with mysterious smudges of dirt on his forehead, and a story to tell.

I spend my afternoons trying to resist the charms of four little ones eager to stay outside until the last possible minute. It’s amazing how many excuses for staying at the park a rosy-cheeked four year old (supported of course by his 5, 6, and 8 year old siblings) can think of when push comes to shove!

I can’t say I blame them – I’m not too anxious to go inside either.

So I’ve been taking advantage of the beautiful weather and my kids’ newfound curiosity, by starting a new theme based on spring. Normally I afterschool for about two hours in the afternoons, but for those sessions we usually spend our time doing table work. There’s plenty of hands on learning of course, but it’s still relatively sedate.

Instead, we’ve flipped the order of things: now, we go out on long adventures “to see what we can see.” We wander around the city, letting our eyes lead the way. Lately, the kids have been interested in all things green- especially flowers and leaves. So I’ve taken their natural interests, and built a curriculum around flowers and leaves.

Here are some of the things we have done: [click to continue…]