Monday, August 26, 2019

Understanding School Lingo

Understanding School Lingo When Your Child Is Struggling and Needs Support: Response to Intervention (RTI), Case Study Evaluation, and Special Education

Our children spend many hours away from us as they get older. Much of this time is spent at school. These days, school curriculum has become more challenging. Even by the end of kindergarten, children are expected to read books with two or more lines of print with predictable or repetitive text. As kindergarten is ending, they should be able to write two sentences with phonetic spelling when a prompt is given, count to 100, and understand math concepts including adding and subtracting within 10.

The curriculum challenges may add stress for both your child and you, and especially so, if your child is struggling academically. So what happens then?

When your child has difficulty with reading or math, there should be support offered at your child’s school. These can include Response-to-Intervention (RTI) services. RTI can be given in small groups led by your child’s teacher or by a reading or math specialist, if needed. This should be considered a short-term service. “Short-term” may be as long as a full school quarter. If progress is seen, RTI is no longer necessary. If very limited to no progress is seen, there may be a disability interfering with academic progress. Throughout this process, your child’s teacher should keep you informed.

For children making limited to no progress with RTI services, a Case Study Evaluation may be necessary to determine if there is a need for special education services.

Special Education is for children who have an identified disability that interferes with academic progress and the case study evaluation is the process school systems use to identify disabilities. Not every child who is evaluated is found to have a disability.

It can be difficult to see your child struggle with school work and sometimes it is hard to ask for help or to ask for an explanation about the struggles, however most teachers are very willing to give their perspective about your child’s learning.

If your child continues to have difficulties after support is given, please feel free to contact us for guidance.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Handling Child Tantrums

Temper Tantrums are normal and common in children from about 1 to 4 years old, and sometimes beyond. At this age, children are still learning to manage their feelings. They often do not have the skills necessary to verbally communicate their very strong emotions and they do not yet fully understand them. So, tantrums should be viewed as a child’s way of communicating frustrations, anger, and lack of control, worry or fear.

You might see crying, screaming, kicking, hitting, or breaking things. Sometimes these behaviors seem to come out of nowhere or are triggered by something you, as a parent, think is insignificant. However, if we can identify the cause of the tantrum, it may help in reducing or avoiding them.

Some common causes of tantrums:
  • Being overly tired or hungry
  • Being told no, “No you can’t have a cookie.”
  • Being asked to do something, “It’s time to get ready for bed.”
  • Becoming frustrated because something is not going as planned
  • Feeling anxious, uncertain or afraid of a situation
  • Feeling hurt, insecure or abandoned by separation
  • Feeling misunderstood and powerless
  • Feeling overwhelmed by emotion

Ways to prevent or reduce tantrums:
  • Be aware of hungry and overly tired children. Try to plan outings after naps and meals.
  • Take snacks with you. If the child is too tired, you may need to alter your plans. Better to delay the shopping trip than struggle with an overly tired child.
  • Give choices when you have to say no. “You can’t have a cookie right now, but you can have an apple or some carrots. “
  • Give warnings in advance so the child knows what is going to happen and can prepare for the transition. “In 15 minutes, it will be time to start putting away the toys and get ready for bed.”
  • If your child is easily frustrated, try working together to solve the problem or the issue. Wonder with the child how you might do something and offer support. Show them how to accomplish the task with which they are struggling, if they will let you. Acknowledge the frustration. If something is too frustrating, consider putting it away for now and engaging in something else.
  • Think about the meaning behind the child’s behavior – what is going on for this child that may be taxing them emotionally, making them feel helpless or scared.

What to do during a tantrum:
  • Make sure everyone is safe. Stay close to your child so they know you are there, can hold the emotions for them and keep them safe. Wait it out.
  • Stay calm and talk calmly to the child. Getting angry will only make the situation worse.
  • Acknowledge what is happening and the feelings they are having.
  • Stay quiet — a child cannot fully take in what you are trying to say in the midst of emotional overload. Sometimes it is necessary to just be a quiet, calm presence until the child releases those big feelings.
  • When they calm down, help them explore what happened, how they were feeling, and help them identify ways to manage these feelings in the future. 

Identifying what the child is trying to accomplish or express during the tantrum can be helpful in reducing the intensity and frequency of tantrums. Remember your child’s tantrums are an expression of their very strong feelings. The goal is to help them learn how to manage these feelings and learn coping skills.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Soothing Anxiety

A few techniques to help soothe anxiety:

Heart hug: Soothe Anxiety with body self-touch. Put your hand over your heart and feel your hand touching your chest.


Friday, February 1, 2019

Calming Activities for Children

Here are a few simple calm down activities for children to help them unwind at the end of the day or play with just before bed time. We all need some moments of peace and quiet in our busy lives, and this helps both parents and children.

Make Lavendar Play Dough. The subtle power of lavender helps to induce calmness and sleepiness. Pushing, squeezing and modelling with play dough is a great stress reliever in and of itself too. Get them to take out their tiffs in the dough!

A rain stick is a great craft to make together. The sound it makes when turned over is wonderful! Children cannot help but keep on turning it over and over, listening to the gentle sound until they calm down.

Discovery bottles are another great resource to have on hand. Filled with glitter, beads pom poms and more, the liquids and objects move slowly when turned and children can focus on them as they do so. Teach them to take deep breaths while they watch the objects moving and they should relax in no time!


Blowing bubbles, whether for a younger sibling or just for themselves, is instantly calming as it requires focus and deep breathing. Of course it beings giggling too, but hopefully still in a happier way than their mood might have been in before!

Monday, December 31, 2018

How to Help Anxious Children

When children are anxious, even the most well-meaning parents can fall into a negative cycle and, not wanting a child to suffer, actually intensify the child’s anxiety. Here are some tips for helping children escape the cycle of anxiety.

Help your child manage anxiety.
The best way to help kids overcome anxiety is to help them manage and work through the feelings. Even if the things that trigger the anxiety seem minor or silly, the feelings are real and intense for the child. Talk about the feelings and triggers, share stories of others or your own past fears and anxieties, practice some calm, deep breathing, and empathize with the worry. When the child feels understood and held, he/she feels safe and strong and is better able to work toward overcoming the anxiety.

Don’t over-react just because something make a child anxious.
It is important to respect a child's fears and worries. These feelings mean something to them. It is important to try and understand what is behind them. Sometimes, well meaning parents are quick to try making things better or immediately and repeatedly remove the anxiety producing triggers. Once they are understood, a plan can be made to help the child overcome that anxiety at a pace that allows him/her to feel in control.

Express positive realistic expectations.
You cannot promise a child that their fears are unrealistic, that they will not fail a test or that another child will not laugh at her during show & tell. However, you can express confidence that they are going to be okay and they will be able to manage it. This gives your child confidence that your expectations are realistic, and that you are not going to ask them to do something they cannot handle.

Respect their feelings.
It is important to understand that validation does not always mean agreement. You want to listen and be empathetic and help them understand what they are anxious about. The message you want to send is, “I know you’re scared, and that’s okay, and I’m here, and I’m going to help you get through this.” 

Don’t ask leading questions.
Encourage your child to talk about their feelings. To avoid feeding the cycle of anxiety, just ask open-ended questions: “How are you feeling about the science fair?” 

Don’t reinforce their fears.

What you do not want to do is be saying, with your tone of voice or body language is: “Maybe this is something that you should be afraid of.” Let’s say a child has had a negative experience with a dog. Next time they are around a dog, you might be anxious about how they will respond, and you might unintentionally send a message that they should be worried.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Why Mindfulness is Good for Children

We want our children to be relaxed, creative and alert. However, finding focus and space to think in this high-speed technological world can be tricky. Mindfulness teaches our kids to tune into their thoughts and feelings, which helps develop coping skills to handle anxiety and stress. 

The following are additional benefits of mindfulness.

  • Boosts children’s mood and self-esteem 
  • Encourages positive behavior such as empathy, emotional control and optimism 
  • Aides in academic learning and improved cognitive control in the classroom 
  • Reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression 
  • Reduces peer aggression and promotes positive conflict resolution 

Monday, November 5, 2018

Self-Regulation Skills for Preschoolers

You can help your child develop self-regulation skills by incorporating simple activities into their daily lives. The following are tips that will promote your child’s self-regulation skills for school and life.

Include your child in the decision-making process
Your child models your language, as well as the processes you use to make thoughtful decisions. When you weigh in your child’s ideas, you help them to develop the confidence and skills to think actively and independently.

Provide regular exploratory playtime
Playtime allows your child the ability to plan their own activities, find and develop interests, explore materials, problem solve and even use simple abstract thinking. Most importantly, these experiences support the idea that self-guided play and learning is valuable.

Provide tasks/responsibilities for your child to complete independently
Encourage your child’s independence by giving them age appropriate tasks to complete. This will spark confidence and create initiative within the child that will influence future behavior.

Engage your child in exploratory conversations
Encourage your child’s language development by engaging them in meaningful conversations. Allow for your child to explore and explain thoughts and feelings.

Support emotional and behavioral self-control

Model positive behavior management skills. Seek to understand your child’s limits and provide support to help your child gain control over his or her behavior. Encourage your child explore emotions and provide safe ways to cope with negative emotions.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Self-Regulation Skills for Toddlers

As a parent, you have likely observed that young children are not quite skilled in the art of self-regulation just yet (Tantrums!) and older children have some small capabilities (I can only handle so much before I explode!). While it is something that does develop as children mature, here are some ways to help strengthen self-regulation skills at home.

Red Light, Green Light

Most of us have played Red Light Green Light at some point, but here is a quick recap:
To play:
  • One person is selected to be the traffic cop.
  • All players stand on the starting line and the traffic cop has their back to the rest of the players. When the traffic cop says "green light," players try to run to the finish line.
  • When the traffic cop says "red light," they turn around and players have to stop in their tracks.
  • If the traffic cop catches a player moving, they are sent back to the starting line.
  • The first person to cross the finish line wins and becomes the new traffic cop.

How can you use this game to learn about self-regulation?

After you play a few rounds of the game the traditional way, switch things up. Have your child run when you say “red light” and stop when you say “green light.” This simple switch will challenge your child to actively think about and practice breaking a habit. The old rules are no longer and we have to change the way we think and process to adapt to the new rules. While on the surface, it may look easy, it’s actually some pretty serious stuff.

Mother May I? and Freeze Dance


Go ahead and try this same idea out with a variety of other games like Mother May I? and the Freeze Dance (switch up the rules - instead of taking steps in Mother May I, make it hops, do it backwards, etc. and in the Freeze Dance, dance with no music then freeze when it starts, etc.). 

Another way to encourage self-regulation is to allow for independence, so be sure to hand the over the reins to your child after they get the hang of it. You will get a moment to catch your breath and your child will enjoy feeling like they are in control. It’s a win-win!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Social Emotional Development: Ages 5 – 7 years

This area of development involves learning to interact with other people, and to understand and control your own emotions. Developing the ability to control your emotions and behavior is also a long process. Children continue to develop their social-emotional skills well into their teenage years, or even young adulthood.

The following are some of the typical developmental milestones for children 5-7 years of age.
  • Measures own performance against others
  • Feel more comfortable spending time at other places without you (i.e. a relative’s or friends’ house)
  • Continue to develop social skills by playing with other children in a variety of situations
  • Be able to communicate with others without your help
  • Start to feel sensitive about how other children feel about him or her

Red Flags
  • Not interested in playing with other children
  • Not able to share or take turns with other children
  • Dependent on caregivers for everything
  • Extremely “rigid” about routines, and becomes extremely upset when things are changed
  • Extreme difficulty separating from you
  • Is too passive or fearful, and does not want to try things other same age children are doing
  • Has extreme fears that interfere with daily activities


If you notice any of these by the time your child is 7 years old, you may want to talk to your doctor, or another health professional such as a mental health clinician, a speech-language pathologist, an occupational therapist, or a psychologist.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Social Emotional Development: Ages 4 – 5 years

This area of development involves learning to interact with other people, and to understand and control your own emotions. Developing the ability to control your emotions and behavior is also a long process. Children continue to develop their social-emotional skills well into their teenage years or even young adulthood.

The following are some of the typical developmental milestones for children 4-5 years of age.
  • Show some awareness of moral reasoning, such as “fairness”, and good or bad behavior
  • Develop friendships
  • Express more awareness of other people’s feelings
  • Enjoy imaginative play with other children, such as dress up or house
  • Better at sharing and taking turns with other children
  • Enjoy playing games, but might change the rules as he goes
  • Stick with a difficult task for longer period
  • Controlling frustration or anger better
  • Listen while others are speaking

Red Flags
  • Not interested in playing with other children
  • Not able to share or take turns with other children
  • Dependent on caregivers for everything
  • Extremely “rigid” about routines, and becomes extremely upset when things are changed
  • Extreme difficulty separating from you
  • Is too passive or fearful, and does not want to try things other same age children are doing
  • Has extreme fears that interfere with daily activities


If you notice any of these by the time your child is 5 years old, you may want to talk to your doctor, or another health professional such as a mental health clinician, a speech-language pathologist, an occupational therapist, or a psychologist.