Does your child have trouble expressing himself, or explaining what he’s learned in daycare or school?
This is a simple way to improve your child’s language development, and boost his expressive language skills. It doesn’t require any special materials, and teaches you how to make an activity you already do – reading to your child – into an activity that boosts your child’s expressive language skills.
After a week or two, you’ll see major improvement in your child’s ability to understand and think critically when reading a book.
Here’s what you do:
Days 1 -2: Teach your child to use the pictures to understand the story.
On the first 2 days you’ll be reading your child’s favorite book, but with a twist. First, ask your child to tell you the name of the book. That’s an easy one, of course. Next, have them show you where on the front cover it says the name of the book. If they don’t know, point it out, being particular to read and point to each word separately.
This teaches them important information about how to read a book, but they will also learn to recognize the words. Do the same thing with the name of the author. You can also show them that inside the book it says the name of the book, and the author.
As you go through the book, there are 2 types of questions you’ll be asking: questions about the pictures, or questions about what’s written. As you flip through the pages, ask your child to tell you a little bit about the pictures.
What does she think is happening? How does she know? Ask her to tell you what she sees in the picture makes her think that – a happy face, scary pictures, etc. Guide her through the pictures first, helping her to use the pictures to predict what the story will be about.
Days 3-4: Help your child notice words and think critically about what she hears.
As you go through the book, you are going to draw your child’s attention to two aspects of the text: the words themselves, and what is being said.
When you talk about the words themselves, you’ll point out things like whether one word rhymes with another, or you might explain what a new word means. For example, in Where the Wild Things Are, the word mischief is introduced.
You can see if your child can guess what it means, referring her to the pictures as a clue, and then ask her if there was ever a time when she made mischief of one kind or another.
When you focus on what is actually being said, you’re looking at the bigger picture. For example, in Where the Wild Things Are, you can ask your child, “Why did Max’s mother call him a wild thing? Why was he lonely? Did he really go to another place?”
You can also extend this even further, asking your child what they do if they feel like making mischief – how do they handle it? Do they sometimes feel lonely?
Of course you don’t need to do all of this at once. Take your time to introduce ideas as you go through the book several times, each time deepening the level of the questions you ask your child. Your child will have gained valuable thinking skills that are critical to being a good reader – all in the space of a few bedtime readings.
TIP: Check out this post to find out how you can use wordless picture books to improve your child's expressive language skills.
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?
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.
If you’re like most parents, then I bet you think you’re doing everything you can to help your child be successful.
Okay, maybe not everything you should be doing – but a lot.
Between the music lessons, art therapy, private tutors, hyperbaric therapy and special gluten/casein-free diet, there isn’t much more you could fit in – or so you imagine.
But what if I told you about the one thing you might be doing that actually increases your child’s chances of failure?
Success isn’t about having the best teachers or being the smartest kid in the class.
Maybe you think your child is guaranteed to be a success if you follow the magic formula: the most demanding curriculum, taught by the best teachers, at the best schools. Followed up of course, by the latest in educational software and extracurricular “enrichment.”
We tend to think parenting is only about knowing what’s best for our kids.
I mean, how much time do you spend trying to decide what class to put Junior in, how to nurture his interests so he’ll be a well-rounded individual, how to help him overcome his character faults so he’ll be a credit to society…the list goes on and on.
But did you ever stop to think that all of the opportunities you present for your child will fall by the way if you can’t get him to give everything he tries his absolute best? Think of how many times we sabotage our child’s efforts by asking to see a test, only to remark, “Oh, you got an 80? What did the other kids get?”
You know what, it doesn’t matter what the other kids got. What matters is, did your child do the best he could do? Did he give that essay, that math worksheet, that crayon drawing, everything he’s got?
One thing I remember about my mother is that she never really cared if we got good grades. That sounds strange, especially if you consider the fact that I was a top student and young for my grade. But it didn’t really matter what grade I got, as long as I did my best.
If I was only able to do B- work (math, my mortal enemy) then she was okay with that. But if I was able to get an A+, and I got anything less than that, then her deep disappointment was enough to set me straight.
Of course, that puts an incredible burden on a child, to some extent, especially if you confuse perfection with doing your best. But a burden can also be a form of deliverance, giving us the strength we need to go farther than we ever thought we could go.
Although I’m about as far from being a football fan as peaches are to porcupines, I want you to take a look at this clip. It’s a great example of how we as parents can help our kids give their absolute best:
Notice what made him an effective coach:
1) He asked his player to give him his personal best – not someone else’s “best.”
2) He broke the task down into manageable steps (only 40 more steps, only 50 more, etc.)
3) He stayed with his player the whole time to support his efforts.
4) He was quite strong with him – even shouting at him – but it was all positive.
5) He “demystified” the whole process by explaining to him exactly how that smaller success could lead to bigger ones.
A good coach is a perfect example on how to parent from the inside out. A good coach realizes that his job is to help his players do his best. At the same time, his ultimate goal is to put himself out of a job, because ultimately he wants his players to get so good that they go on to the big league.
As a parent, our children will go on to the big league whether they’re ready or not. And, while we’ll always be parents to our children, there’s nothing like the feeling of seeing your child make it to the end zone.
Today I found a small yellow piece of plastic underneath the radiator in the younger boys’ room. It was perfectly round, except for one thin spoke that stuck out from the middle.
That little black leg lent it a sort of importance, and so turning the miniscule glob of plastic around, I tried, with my spatially inept eyes, to figure out exactly what vital piece of equipment it belonged to.
Although I couldn’t for the life of me perceive what its purpose was, I was reluctant to throw it away. I had already had the unfortunate experience of throwing away bits of plastic or metal that looked inconsequential, but were -alas- very important to the functioning of some very expensive (or beloved) mechanical contraption.
So for a while I held onto it, and slowly it made its way throughout the various hidey-holes in our house. You know what those are: the places where you stick the stuff you know you should put away or throw away, but lacking the gumption, just pack it out of sight.
Eventually I came upon it again a month or so later in the bathroom. In a fit of pique (sometimes it’s a good idea to clean house when you’re in a bad mood; everything looks worth throwing away) I threw it into the small plastic bin next to the toilet. I picked up the nylon sack, and headed to the kitchen to throw it away.
I have to say I was pretty proud of myself, pack rat that I am.
As I left the room, I bumped into my 12 year old.
Technically I guess twelve qualifies as pre-teen, but I think his behavior justifies the full appellation of “teen,” with all of its attendant qualities. In other words, he can sometimes be wonderful, but other times, he can argue me out of house and home with the aplomb of a senior statesman.
You know how it is when your kids have this really annoying thing they do that drives you absolutely senseless? Usually there isn’t any logical reason why; it’s often something others would (and do) find perfectly innocuous.
Well, I had just noticed that little thing, and being already on the edge, was ready to blow my stack. Suddenly, I stopped, and looked at the bag in my end with the little plastic piece in it.
I had just thrown away the yellow thingamabob, after having let if float around the house for the last month or so. I had done so because it had no useful place in our house. It served no purpose other than to take up valuable real estate in an otherwise full house of 9.
So why did I persist in holding on to my grudge against that little behavior? Holding on to that bit of righteousness that shouted, “You can’t let him get away with it,” which serves absolutely no worthwhile purpose. Worse, it took up valuable real estate in my heart, interfering with a relationship that didn’t need any more strife.
There and then, I decided to just let it be. As I headed to the garbage,
I mentally pictured myself throwing away that bit if prejudice that I held onto, hopefully not to be seen again.
Here are 3 tips you can use to do the same with those little pockets of irrationality all good parents possess:
1) Look at the big picture.
Step back and try and see where the behavior fits in the scheme of things. If you’ve taken the time to evaluate what your goals for yourself and your family are, things will be a little easier. If not, ask yourself, will this stop him from being a decent human being, and a successful member of society?
If this answer is no, then you have your answer. You should probably just let it go.
2) Consider where your child is holding developmentally.
Often parents get hung up about something that will naturally pass with time. Trying to force it to go before it’s time not only doesn’t work, but can sometimes makes things worse.
If you’re not sure whether this is something normal for kids of your child’s age, ask around. You might be surprised (and relieved) to find out that other kids have been there, and done that, too, and grown up to be otherwise respectable people.
3) Give it a rest anyway.
Sometimes there are behaviors that might warrant concern. However, if the behavior is not harmful to anyone, consider leaving it be for a while.
That means not making a big deal about it, and showing your child that you couldn’t really care about it one way or the other. I know, it can be hard sometimes, but I’m sure you’ve got other stuff to worry about.
You might have to do some inner work on this one, but sometimes letting it go-really letting it go- allows your child the safety to do the same. One day, you might turn around, and realize that they’ve given it up on their own.
Is your child struggling to make himself understood?
If your child has an expressive language disorder, you know how frustrating it can be. I know there were times when one of my children was desperate to tell me about something important in school, but just wasn't able to get his point across clearly.
He felt badly because he really wanted my advice about what to do, and I felt badly because I wanted to help him but didn't have enough info to help him.
Most of the exercises for helping your child speak better are artificial and just not fun.
If you've ever had to sit through the typical exercises given for helping your child's expressive language skills, you know they can get pretty boring.
Often you have to ask your child to state the correct word (fill in the blank), answer questions, or something other school like activity. And after a whole day of school, which was probably not the easiest experience for your child to begin with.
Let's just say that most parents and kids lose their enthusiasm real quick.
On top of everything, those exercises feel artificial. Real life is more spontaneous, and full of more social interaction than a fill in the blank. You just can't imagine how it'll all transfer over to real-life.
Creating a game guide of his favorite video game will help your child speak better.
Talk to your child about his favorite video game, on the other hand, and watch instantly as his eyes light up, his voice becomes more animated - he's psyched and ready to go on for days.
They're a subject he has extensive experience with (so he's an expert- a great ego boost), and is enthusiastic about. Plus he gets to create a useful product for others to learn from: that makes him a winner, "cool."
At the same time, your child will be polishing his sequencing skills, improving his sentence structure, learning how to paraphrase, as well as a host of other skills. Ready to dive in?
How to Play:
1) Explain to your child that they are going to create a game guide for other kids on how to play their favorite video game. Younger children might choose to make a basic guide, while older children and teenagers can choose to make a walkthrough, or an “expert” or guru guide.
2) Let your child decide what format her presentation will be in. She can choose to make a video, a podcast, or a PowerPoint presentation. If she chooses to make a video, she can use a screen capture program such as Camtasia to record what is seen on the computer screen.
If your child chooses to make a podcast or other audio recording, there are many free programs she can use to audit their recording. Audacity is one such program that is both free and of high quality.
PowerPoint presentations can include screenshots (use the “print screen” button on your keyboard and crop out the unnecessary stuff), but you can also add music (try Musicloops for free music) to spice things up.
3) Help your child sketch out a basic outline for their presentation. Explain to them that in order to be effective, it minimally needs to include the following elements:
Goal of the game
Basic explanation of what you need to do on each level
Tips and hints
Have your child first create each section individually as a rough draft; they can put the parts together later.
4) Next, have your child turn on the video game. They will create material as they play, so they will have a better idea of what they need to write. If they can’t pause the game after each level, then let them play the game once through and then write material for each section immediately afterwards.
Younger children might need you to help them: ask them questions about the game, and write down their answers (if they have difficulty writing) or give them time to write the answers on their own.
5) Help your child revise and edit each section. Don’t worry about spelling or punctuation; let spell check do that for your child. You are more concerned with your child’s ability to give over information in a clear, fairly concise manner.
That means your child should make sure that someone who is a complete newbie to the game should be able to understand their guide. Encourage them to show it to a family member or a friend (if they’re feeling brave) who is not familiar with the game, explaining that this is what everyone who creates a how-to guide does before they publish their work.
6) Create the final product. If your child is making a PPT presentation, she can write everything out on slides, taking screenshots when necessary. She should first write it out, taking the screenshots afterwards; she might need your help with this, as it requires quick hands and some pasting and cropping.
If your child is creating a video, he now has a good idea of a script. He needn’t memorize it; since he’s written it and he’s of course familiar with the game, it merely acts as a prompt for him to ensure he’s said everything he should say.
7) Share it with the world. The best part of creating this guide is sharing it with other game fans. Your child can post it on gamer sites, or he can upload it to the following free sites:
Video: Your child can upload to just YouTube, or he can use TubeMogul or Traffic Geyser to upload the video to multiple sites.
PowerPoint Presentation: Your child can submit their PPT to these sites for free: Slideshare, Slideboom, Authorstream, and Slideburner. You can also easily turn their PPT into a PDF using PrimoPDF, which is free. You can then submit the PDF version to these sites: Calameo, Butterfly, Yudu , Esnips, and Scribd.
Podcast or audio presentation: Submit to these sites for free: podcast.com, iTunes, dayo, and podcastalley.
Written report: Since your child’s report will be very similar to a step-by-step tutorial, your child can submit it to these sites for free: e-how.com, tutorialized.com, Good-Tutorials.com, and Designm.ag.
Whichever site your child chooses to submit their guide, they can use Pingler and SocialMarker to submit the URL of their product to dozens of social bookmarking sites. Both are free and will help their guide get noticed, hopefully sending traffic from other like-minded gamers.
My eldest has a memory that astounds even me sometimes. Although only in high school, the amount of material she has memorized is daunting.
Because her school believes students should also spend time exercising their memories, students are asked to memorize large amounts of material.
And although this is only one of the ways mastery of a subject is determined, the teachers place a high value on being able to have prodigious amounts of material available at the tip of a student’s tongue. For example, on a recent test she memorized 15 pages of material – a minimal amount- and was tested in class the next day.
It would be hard enough for one student to have to stand up and recite all of that material, let alone a whole class. Instead, the teacher gives a three or four word phrase from anywhere in the material and the person called upon has to recite the subsequent material – until the teacher tells them to stop.
The myth of a good memory
Lest you think my daughter was born this way, think again. While she is bright, she wasn’t always able to memorize this much material. In fact, when she switched into her present school in fourth grade, she spent an hour and a half trying to memorize a short paragraph in history.
Research and numerous real-life examples show that a person can train their brain to remember larger and larger amounts of material. At the same time, scientists have also studied the brains of memory champs and found no superior cognitive abilities or structural differences in their brains.
Memorization is a skill that can be learned like any other skill
Memory is like any other skill: the more your child practices, the better they’ll get. So why don’t we have more memory masters around if strengthening your memory is so easy?
First of all, strengthening your child’s memory, while not necessarily hard, does require work. It’s not something you can expect your child to accomplish in a day, though if your child is consistent it can be done in two or three months. Many people, unfortunately, expect a quick fix to improving their memory, and are reluctant to invest the time in order to get the job done.
Second, you need to make sure your child is using the right techniques in order to strengthen their memory. Some popular techniques like making up a silly story in order to remember a shopping list, might work for memorizing a grocery list, but fail miserably when it comes to remembering more complicated material.
In order to improve your child’s memory, you need to know WHY they have trouble remembering
If you went to the doctor with severe stomach pains, you wouldn’t expect your doctor to send you home with a prescription for Pepto-Bismol. The same is true for memory: there is no one method that will work for everyone with memory problems.
Instead, you need to know about the different types of memory there are, and where your child’s memory dysfunction lays. Once you’ve determined where your child’s memory is falling short can you make a plan to strengthen their memory.
3 methods you can use today to help improve your child’s memory
Here are some practical methods you can use to help your child improve their memory. They’re not gimmicks, but are real methods based on the way we learn best. I’ve used them with my own children and countless other clients:
Visualize what needs to be remembered
One of the best ways to remember things is to form a visual image of what you need to remember in your head. Next time your child has to remember the story of Thanksgiving, for example, let her draw, trace, or color pictures that represent each key point in the story.
After she finishes 2 or 3 pictures, stop and ask her to tell you in a few words what each picture represents.
Teach your child how to paraphrase
Often children with learning disabilities have hard time pulling out the most important information from a chunk of material. They may listen to a teacher describing what they’ll be doing for the day, but be unable to remember a word of what was said, because it was all just one big blur to them.
They even miss hearing key words like “first” or “next” or “last,” which would help give them a clue that important information is about to be said.
Teach your child how to rehearse material they want to remember
Many children have no clue how to memorize. It almost seems as if they expect the material to enter their brains through osmosis. Good memorizers make an active attempt to remember material with rehearsal strategies: whispering under their breath, repeating it over and over again, testing themselves, imagery, or anagrams and other tricks.
Making a conscious effort to use specific techniques to remember can have a huge impact on how much your child remembers, even if they are preschoolers.
Was there a time when your child remembered something you didn’t expect them to remember? What was it? Tell me about it in the comments below.
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.
Parenting solutions for special needs children are not always easy to come by. Raising a child with Asperger’s, sensory integration disorder, ADD, or another disorder often resembles a topographical map: a lot of hills and valleys, a few grassy plains, and a riot of beautiful colors spread haphazardly throughout. But just when you think you’ve found your way through the therapy maze and begun to understand your child, they up and turn into a teenager!
How do you explain to a teenager with Asperger’s that his inability to see things from the other’s point of view is turning off his friends? Or how do you reason with your teenage SID daughter who refuses to bathe frequently because she hates the feel of a shower and loathes getting undressed for a bath? And when your 14 year old ADD ‘er crashes the party with his special brand of impulsivity, you may feel more embarrassed than he does.
The first thing to do is remain calm. Even though it may seem as though your teenager’s behavior is unbearable or intolerable (and what parent of a teenager doesn’t feel like that at some point in their teenager’s life!) generally it isn’t. It may be very difficult, it may even be downright unpleasant, but it’s unlikely to be fatal, or you probably would have been flat on your back, feet up in the air a long time ago.
Maintaining perspective will help you view the situation as an opportunity to teach your child the right way to behave. By looking at these challenging behaviors as opportunities to help your child achieve further independence, you will be less likely to instigate a battle or begin an ineffective campaign doomed to failure.
Some other important things to consider:
Respect your teenager’s desire to be independent. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the child that we advocated, argued, struggled, and cried for is no longer willing to take the back seat. This is a child who despite his weaknesses, still insists on sitting in the driver’s chair. It’s crucial to remember that even if your child has disabilities, he still desires and needs to struggle for independence as much- maybe even more so- than a typically developing teenager.
Plan for small successes. True growth does not happen in a day, a week, or even a month. Lasting change takes time to implement, time to foster, and more time until the change is no longer a “change” but the way things are. Plan goals that are small, yet successive, and make sure your child is at least 80% successful while you are working with them. It’s hard for anyone to fail, but teenagers are especially sensitive to failure. They are often unable to see the big picture, and will feel that if they have failed once then they are doomed to failure forevermore.
Focus on your child’s strengths as well, not just on their weaknesses. It’s easy to see so many things to fix that your forget this is not about fixing what is broken, but about building what has yet to be completed. Your child is more than the sum of her differences- it is exactly these differences that make her who she is. Try and find a way to use her differences in a positive way. The same child who would rather be alone because she is uncomfortable with people could make a great web designer or computer programmer. Maybe your 16 year old likes to cook, and sometimes helps you out by cooking dinner occasionally. Can you find a chef or a caterer who would be willing to teach her once a week? Could you nurture a future business by allowing her to help cook for family events and get-togethers?
Develop goals in a variety of areas. Your child may need a lot of guidance with social skills, but you would be wise to include a variety of areas for him to work on. A well-rounded goal plan is more interesting, more effective, and easier to plan for. You can even try and integrate several goals in one activity, though this is not always necessary or possible. Some possible areas to work on:
self-care skills (grooming and hygiene, appropriate dress for the weather or occasion)
medication management (your teenager needs to be aware and responsible of what medications she takes, their side-effects, and how they help her)
social skills (this also includes understanding society’s rules and your rules about dealing with the opposite sex)
symptom management (this includes understanding his disability, as well as being able to advocate for himself)
educational and career training (what educational or career goals does your child have? All of us desire to be contributing members of society, and your teenager is probably no different. Help her identify what she likes and/or is good at doing. Then brainstorm with a career counselor or look online for possible careers or occupations.
5. Allow for immaturity too. Like most teenagers, your teenager might switch between a desire to do everything - or nothing- on his own. Even though it’s frustrating, it is normal. Build in some special one-on-one times where he is allowed to choose the activity and just be himself. Include reasonable rewards which show you recognize how hard he is working. And even though they may act like they don’t need it, don’t forget to show him how much you still love him. Write notes, pack a favorite lunch, do him a favor and drive him when he normally walks. He may not gush with effusive thanks, but he will definitely appreciate it- and probably thank you for it when you least expect it.
Hi! I’m a parent of 8 children, 3 of whom have learning disabilities. I have over 20 years experience working with kids and adults of all ages. My specialty is disabilities on the autistic spectrum, and language delays.