It’s happened to every parent. Your preschooler or kindergartner waited with baited breath the entire summer until school started. They spent hours debating the merits of various book bags, and whether or not a pencil case could do the same job as a pencil box.
That first day of school went beautifully, and then- reality hit. Suddenly the child who couldn’t wait for school to start is not only blasé, but downright uninterested in school. Asked what happened, they might answer, “That was yesterday. Not today.”
What happened? Was it something you or (gasp!) the teacher did wrong?
Probably not. There are a couple of reasons why kids often react this way to school – even if this isn’t their first year.
One reason is simply that the excitement of something new has worn off. It’s not so much different than getting gifts during holiday season: it’s hard for real life to stand up to your child’s often unrealistic expectations.
Another reason why your child’s enthusiasm wanes is because now the work part of school has hit. For some children with learning disabilities or other issues, hope springs eternal.
Although the evidence might seem to point otherwise, they’re hoping for a better year (can you blame them?), and it can be pretty disappointing when school is just as hard as it always was.
The third reason is practical: your child still needs to adjust physically and emotionally to being in school. If you’ve prepared your child for the new school year, then this is hopefully less of an issue.
Still, change is naturally harder for kids with special needs. They may be faced with situations that call on coping skills they just don’t have. Sometimes, even though it may not seem a major deal to grown-ups, even the most minor issues can leave a child worried and stressed.
Here are 3 tips you can follow to help your child make the adjustment:
1) Talk with your child about how he feels.
Some children will have a hard time doing this outright. Instead, you can read a book or make up your own story about a character in your child’s situation who was having a hard time in school.
Don’t worry about making the story resemble your child’s situation exactly; it’s unnecessary and would only make your child suspicious. Instead, change things around a little bit. When you tell the story, you can add in comments like, “Wow, I would be really embarrassed if that happened to me! Would that embarrass you?”
2) Use play to help your child problem-solve.
Very young children, children with weak language development, or children with special needs in general, are often unable to verbally problem-solve. They have a hard time finding a solution to what’s going on just by talking about it.
That means instead of commenting about your child’s play, you get involved. You gently challenge your child, just as a playmate would. By looking out for strong feelings during your child’s play, you can help them acknowledge those powerful feelings, leading the way for later problem solving.
3) Expect a certain amount of attention seeking or babyish behavior.
When a child is under stress, they often respond by acting out or behaving immaturely. That can often be annoying and frustrating for parents, who expect their “big” boy or girl to behave more maturely now that they’re in school.
While you should not tolerate misbehavior, you can greatly minimize it by giving your child attention before he acts out. Cuddle him, play a special game together, or share a treat. For babyish behavior, it’s generally okay to baby your child a bit. They’ll get over it quick enough if you begin to praise them or a sibling when they display “big girl” behavior.
For example, you could call out “I need a big girl to help me make lunch. Is there a big girl around today?” Most children find it impossible to resist, but if your child is one of those that does resist, simply look for opportunities when they behave maturely, and give them specific praise, “Thanks for helping me with that Ethan. I saw how you figured out how to help me right away. It must be because you’re getting so big; last year you couldn’t have done that.”
Most importantly, don’t forget to make time to spend together doing something your child enjoys. It not only builds wonderful memories, but will give your child the emotional energy she needs to help her face the myriad difficulties that make up life – even for the pint-sized crowd.
It’s frustrating dealing with a child who can’t follow directions.
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?
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:
It’s not uncommon for children all the way up to first grade to have trouble cutting with scissors. Usually the child has trouble with her fine motor skills: the acts of grasping the scissors, holding and manipulating the paper, and opening and closing the scissors, are actually more difficult than most parents (and teachers) realize.
This exercise is useful in helping your child master the practical skills of how to cut paper; however if your child also has trouble buttoning his clothing, manipulating food or writing implements, or other fine motor issues, then you should do additional fine motor hands-on learning games with them.
-Scissors. These should be comfortable for your child to use; try out several different pairs. It’s preferable to use regular scissors vs. “training scissors.” This will avoid your child having to learn how to cut twice-once with the training scissors and once with the regular ones.
-Small squares of 4”× 4”heavy paper. Your child will enjoy especially enjoy cutting if you use colored paper.
How to Play the Game:
There are ten different cutting patterns. Start from the first one, even if you think it’s too easy for your child; if it is, he will finish it quickly and move onto the next one.
Once your child is fully able to cut out one pattern (100% of the time) he may go on to the next pattern. Stick to this routine even if your child wants to just “try out” a more complicated pattern; it is the excitement of trying out something new that will help motivate him to complete the present pattern.
You can practice cutting with your child once a day; you should see significant improvement in a few weeks.
When it comes to recognizing intelligence as more than doing well in school, well - we’ve come a long way baby.
No longer is the kid who sits in the front of the class answering all the questions considered the smartest in the bunch.
At last, Howard Gardner and his theory of multiple intelligences has finally penetrated the masses. Teachers now know that the world’s future dancers, artists, architects – even politicians- are just as smart as the teacher’s pet.
If that’s so, then why do we find so few children that are highly creative?
Maybe it’s because we parents are engaging in some bad habits that literally crush our children’s creativity, almost from the moment they are born. If we want our children to truly be creative-even the therapists, landscapers, and animal whisperers-then here are 8 habits that we need to avoid like the plague:
You can’t build a bike and ride it at the same time. They’re two completely different activities. Likewise, creating and evaluating are activities that take place literally on opposite sides of the brain. So whether your child is in the process of creating a new dance move or a new recipe, save the critique for later.
In the same vein, you can encourage your child not to worry about what other people will think while they are in the throes of inspiration. Reassure them that there will be plenty of time to check out their work when they are ready.
So your child has thought of something that goes against all the rules? Get over it. Throughout history some of our greatest inventors have bucked the norm, and in doing so, given the world some of our most important discoveries.
Let your child work it out on his own, and if his theory doesn’t work out, he’ll find out soon enough.
There’s really no way around it: at first, you’ll suck. There’s no question about it because everyone when they first start out sucks. Mozart, Picasso, John Steinbeck: everyone starts out a long ways away from where they end up.
So help your child get over the idea of not succeeding every time. Hold a red-letter failure party, if you have too. Just make sure they understand that failure is crucial to success. Not only does it force your child to reconsider the problem from a different (possibly better) angle, but without failure there would be no success.
Most people like to remain in the comfort zone. They naturally shy away from anything that is unfamiliar, or doesn’t make sense. Sometimes, though, the act of creation involves quite a mess: think of finger paint, for example, a product that many mothers wish were illegal.
However, in order for your child to create, he (and you) need to learn how to tolerate a little mess and confusion. Order out of chaos, construction out of destruction; sometimes the process is more important than the product. So get out those aprons, and let the games begin.
In children, lack of confidence is often tied to a need for perfection. I remember my daughter as a young child, refusing to draw pictures of people. I began to worry if maybe there was some deep psychological reason for this, and so I dug out a picture of a child’s drawing to show her.
I was floored when she looked at the stick figure and literally laughed out loud. “Mommy, that doesn’t look ANYTHING like a real person!” she stated, indignant. “That’s a ridiculous picture.”
Occasionally lack of confidence in children may also be due to a need for approval. Some children fear rocking the boat, lest they be asked to dock at the next shore. Reassure them it’s okay to make mistakes, and make sure they know you love them because of who they are-not for what they produce.
Okay, it’s true: sometimes other people can be real downers. Whether they intend to or not, some people have a tendency to pick on the negative and ignore the positive.
Be your child’s rock: help her weather the storm of people who feel threatened by your child’s willingness to tackle the unknown. If necessary, keep things under wrap until you have to.
If your child does end up hearing a bit of negative sludge from the black hole society, help them write a list of all the good things about their creation. Then take an ad out in the New York Times Sunday paper. Well, maybe putting it on the fridge is good enough.
I once spoke to a friend who was has a disabled child. Searching for a diagnosis, she noticed that every professional gave a diagnosis consistent with their specialty.
Sometimes we can only see what we are used to seeing. It takes a lot of effort to break out of the mold and do a little bit of “lateral thinking,” but with practice, it can be done. You can help your child think out of the box by encouraging them to imagine they are someone else. Make up a name, a city where they live, and a fake history. Then help them to put themselves in that person’s shoes through role-play.
Next, present a particular problem or issue, and guide them in imagining how their character would respond. Not only will your child learn how to step out of their self-made corrals, but they will also gain a valuable interpersonal skill.
Feeling overwhelmed because you have a few of these bad habits? Don’t sweat it. Try tackle a new problem each week, rotating back to the first one after the last habit.
After all, you never know if your child is the next Columbus, Einstein, or Ignaz Semmelweis.
Hands-on learning games are an ideal way to help your child improve his visual memory. If you find your child often has trouble remembering where she places her things, or finds it hard to locate familiar places, then these games, played regularly, can help increase the amount of space on your child's visual "hard drive."
Game #1: Picture Perfect
Gather your materials:
You will need actual objects or pictures of common items, such as: a small ball, fork, toy car, play figure, etc.
Play the Game:
This game can be played alone, but it is also great fun to play with friends or other family members. Here are some fun variations on the game:
Tip: In the beginning it will be easier for your child to remember items that are dissimilar, such as a ball, a shoe, and a fork. Later you can make the game more complicated by sticking to one category. For example, you might use a fork, a spoon, and a knife. 3-4 year olds should be able to remember at least three items, while 5-6 year olds should be able to remember at least 4-5 items, sequentially.
Game #2: Devious Dice
Gather your materials:
You will need large foam dice, which can be found at most toy stores.
Play the Game:
1. Start with three dice. Place the dice in a horizontal row in front of your child, then turn the each die randomly.
2. Tell your child to look at the dice for at least 7 seconds; encourage them to look at them for the full amount of time, as often children think they have it down after only a glance, only to find they don't actually remember.
3. Ask your child what numbers they saw, in order.
Here are some variations to this game:
Tip: This is a game on the harder end. Play only twice a week, and make it more exciting by taking turns, playing "challenger" rounds, or giving a small prize to the winner. A prize need not be material; it can also be staying up a half-hour past bedtime, or getting to choose the menu for dinner.
This hands-on learning game is a great way for kids to learn about the different types of coverings animals have. The extra set-up of close-up cards challenge children to identify the animal in addition to its’ covering. Plus, your child can play the game with another child, racing against a clock to see who finishes sorting their cards first.
- 4 close-up pictures of fur, feathers, scales, and a shell.
- Pictures of : turtle, lobster, snail, starfish, crab, crayfish
Bear, tiger, rabbit, deer, mouse, monkey
Chicken, ostrich, duck, sparrow, peacock, parakeet
Snake, komodo dragon, green lizard, angelfish, butterfly, gecko lizard
Close-ups of each of the above animals that show only one small part
How to Play:
The close-up cards should be matched in the same way.
You can have your child play this game together with another child. Simply give each child two category cards, and see who can finish sorting their cards first. Children on two different levels can play also; one child places the close-ups while the other places the regular pictures.
Remember how kids played I Spy before the days of Walter Wick?
Usually played on long highway rides during summer vacation, in those days it was you, a few siblings, and a sharp pair of eyes. The object of the game was to find a particular object – a license plate with a particular number, a certain car model, or a landmark.
This listening game is like I Spy with a twist: instead of looking for a noun (car, doll, book) your child will look for an object that fits the description you give.
Let’s say, for example, that you choose the word “thin.” Your child’s job will be to find an object that fits that description. In doing so she not only learns new vocabulary words, but she learns to listen carefully and discriminate between the word thin and other words that are similar, such as “small” or “narrow.”
-index cards with descriptive words written on them
List A List B List C
big hot broad heavy bitter fragrant
small cold narrow light sweet odorless
rough short thick soft sour flat
smooth tall thin hard salty curved
1. Place the cards face down on a flat surface. If your child is familiar with I Spy, explain that this game is similar to I Spy.
2. Ask your child to pull one card, and read it aloud for them.
3. Tell them to look around the room (or several rooms), and to try and find something that’s like the word on the card.
4. If your child is unfamiliar with a word or has difficulty, simply find an item in the house and show them how the word they drew fits.
Usually when we think of parenting skills, we focus on the children: are they stubborn or placid? Are they energetic or do they like to take it easy?
Next we focus on the values and rules we use to discipline our children: are we permissive or strict? Do we want kids who are team players or kids who are independent thinkers?
However, one of the most important factors that parents often forget to take into account is the type of parent we actually are. Knowing what type of parent you are is crucial to understanding how you will relate to your children, both positively and negatively.
You’ll be able to tailor-make any parenting method so that it is the best fit for you and your family.
1. The Rule Maker
If you are this type of parent, you tend to place great value on following the rules. You focus not on having fun, but in making sure your children do what is right. You place great importance on order and structure and you are careful to train your children to be obedient from an early age.
In the ideal form, you are able to motivate your children by your strong conviction in doing what is right. You are able to accept the fact that children make mistakes, and to take into account the individual differences of children that make a difference in how they behave.
On the other hand, if you are on the unhealthy end of the spectrum, you can be perfectionist, controlling, and impersonal. You have a difficult time tolerating others’ weaknesses or mistakes, and so are often extremely critical of others.
Sometimes you also tend to project your own forbidden thoughts and desires on others. You see everyone else as “bad,” because you are unable to admit to the shame and self-hatred you feel about their own perceived failures.
2. Altruistic Giver
If you are an altruistic giver, your focus is on feelings. Ideally, you desire to love and protect others. You need to be important and appreciated by others, and you crave physical closeness. You are known as someone who can be counted on to help others, no matter what.
You have a tremendous ability to give to others, and so it is natural for you to help your family, neighbors, and even strangers, far beyond what most would be willing to do. You are also able to love your children unconditionally, and unselfishly; you give because you enjoy doing so, not in order to get something back.
If you are on the unhealthy spectrum, you still enjoy giving to your children, but you feel dependent on their approval. It’s sometimes hard for you to discipline your children firmly and consistently, because you are so concerned about them loving you.
Because you have a need to feel loved- but never really feel loved at any given point in time-you are very caught up in trying to gain approval. You may spread yourself so thin helping everyone else out that there is very little time left over for your own family. On the other hand, you can be very overprotective, in an attempt to control your children and ensure that they need you.
3. Self-Assured Motivator
If you are this personality type, you are driven to succeed to the fullest. You are a drawn to beauty, and you and your children are always dressed to the tee. You project an aura of elegance and refinement, even under the worst circumstances.
On the unhealthy end, you may be more concerned with flaunting your beauty and superiority. You are competitive, and look down on the less fortunate. For you love and success depend on recognition by others of your superior ability. You often push your children too far, demanding that they perform according to your desires and expectations-no matter what their talents, aspirations, or skills.
4. Spiritual Alchemist
As a spiritual alchemist, you experience feelings deeply. You have a need to create; that is your form of self-actualization. You can be very dramatic at times, but you are also spontaneous, empathetic, and genuinely share others’ pain.
As a parent you love making life a joyous experience for your children. You use all of your creative talents to help them experience the world in a positive manner. You are also very sensitive to how your children feel, catching their moods at an instant.
Your main difficulty as a parent is your conflict between your desire to develop your own creative potential, and the daily tasks that make-up motherhood. You also tend towards self-involvement and negativity, ignoring the good that others’ possess. This can lead you to depressive episodes which prevent you from relating or caring for your children.
5. Insightful Observer
You love to learn; your goal is to learn as much as you can about everything. You possess a brilliant mind, love learning for its own sake.
You enjoy sharing your knowledge with your children, and know exactly how to explain difficult concepts so they can understand. Sometimes you tend to get over-involved in your knowledge quests, and you may survive on very little food, sleep, or other material comforts.
You may feel bored an intellectually unstimulated around small children, finding it difficult to relate to their antics. You may also turn away from the typical parents’ gatherings at parks and other public places.
If you are on the unhealthy end, you tend to withdraw from those around you. You may ignore children who you feel cannot share your knowledge, and you feel only intellect has value. You look scornfully upon arts or other creative endeavors. You also worry constantly about having enough money, time, energy, and knowledge.
6. Devoted Loyalist
If you are in this category, you are highly-devoted to your family and friends. You are hard-working, playful, and like to spend your time helping to create and support community institutions, like your church or synagogue, school, or other groups that support social causes.
You identify strongly with the underdog, and may encourage your children to help the child who is left out at school, even going so far as to invite them over in an attempt to help them out.
On the unhealthy side, you may be controlling, demanding that your children show complete loyalty to you. You may become aggressive in an attempt to establish control of your household, or you may engage in passive-aggressive behavior in order to force your children to prove their loyalty.
7. Accomplished Adventurer
For you, life is an adventure. You love doing things just for the fun of it. You are energetic, and love doing all kinds of wild crazy things with your children that most other parents would consider too adventurous or too much trouble. However, you can still help your children find joy in the little things, like a walk in the woods, or an interesting stone.
However, you can get bored with day-to-day routines, often looking for a way to “spice things up a little,” or ignoring the task altogether. You may feel a constant need to be on the go, which means you often “run away” from your children. You may neglect your children in favor of social or business obligations, which appear more “fun” to you.
8. Magnanimous Leader
You have a very powerful personality if you belong in to this group. You are assertive and know how to take charge: you are a natural leader. As a parent you are decisive, authoritative, and determined to teach your children the skills they need to survive in a tough world.
Unfortunately, you can tend to be quite aggressive and controlling, even using violence if you feel it’s necessary. You may react violently to your children’s misbehavior, feeling it was done purposely. You may also tend towards emotional aloofness, and have trouble relating to the day-to-day foibles of your children.
9. Tranquil Peacemaker
The last group of parents is especially peaceful and easygoing. You are deeply trusting of others, are supportive, and are content with your life as it is.
You remain calm even during the most trying times, so your children find it easy to turn to you when they need help. You are able to mediate between siblings, providing a tranquil island of calm for your family.
At times you may be too accommodating, and give-in for the sake of peace, even when you should stand up for yourself. You may also procrastinate, attempting to avoid very real problems you face with your children. You may even stubbornly resist any attempt any attempt to compel you to take action on behalf of a child in need.
Use your newfound knowledge to help you understand why you react to your children’s misbehavior in the way that you do. If you see similarities between yourself and some of the unhealthy extremes, don’t panic! Being aware of your imperfections is the first step in correcting them.
Rules that say how we should be put to sleep in our certifiably-safe beds, what clothes we should we wear, what schools we should go to, and who we should be friends with.
Call it safety measures, etiquette, common sense, guidelines, social graces, or actual honest to goodness written in the lawbooks laws, most of us feel obligated to follow most of them most of the time – and do so with very little question on our parts.
When it comes to raising kids with LD, a lot of us –myself included – follow the same path. In fact, I’m the consummate rule-follower. When one of my sons was younger, he had some pretty big language delays. By the time he was in first grade, he only knew about 6 or 7 letters of the alphabet.
Of course, we were doing everything that the rules said we should be doing. Speech therapy twice a week since he was three. A tutor who worked hard on all the skills the school felt he needed. We even held him back, because the school said that would be the best thing for him: they promised that when he caught up, they’d bump him up right back to where he belonged.
Well, we followed that path through the woods without too much complaint, because we thought we could see that tasty little house up ahead with the fruit-flavored gumdrops and organic cookies.
Until our son was nearly eaten alive by the evil witch.