Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Unexplained Behavior Issues of a Kid- Sleep problems

Is sleep hard for any of your kids? It was for my first born A. Since he was a baby he was difficult to put to sleep for the night. We had to wiggle and swing and jig for 30 minutes, you know, from Dr. Karp "Happiest Baby on the Block." (I did develop some great biceps though). Yes, I bought the book, the DVD and even paid to take a class with some certified in his technique. I figured my husband and I were just not doing things right. (On a good note, these techniques worked fine for my other boys and some of my friends).

We didn't look forward to our evening routine (I still wonder how we ended up with 3 children since out first born was so difficult). My husband and I would argue over who's turn it was to put the baby to sleep for the night. It did get easier to put him in bed around age 1 until he turned 2, until we put his baby brother in the room with him. At first it was great. Then A would get bored and wake the baby and try to get him to laugh and talk. The baby would eventually fall asleep, but A would not. (My husband and I figured we were to blame for his poor sleep habits because we had to bounce him around so much as a baby to get him to fall asleep. Now we know that was part of his "sensory craving" from his sensory processing disorder).

Our son  would stay up until 9pm, 10pm, and even 11pm and be back up between 5-6am the next morning. (The advice of letting our child stay up later so they would sleep in more does NOT apply to A). We would sit on the bed with him, put him on timeout in the hallway until he seemed to calm down, walk in to the bedroom every time he got up and put him back down (like we saw in SuperNanny). Nothing worked!

Bed time was a nightmare for us because his behavior in preschool was causing a lot of concern too and the only correlation we could find, at the time, was his lack of sleep. I would research online, talk to his doctor and therapist who said "just keep doing what you are doing and be consistent." Bottom line: Everyone assumed we were not consistent and believed if we continued to do what we said we were doing, things should get better. (Our moms stayed overnight during the week so we have proof we were consistent)!

When A was five we had the opportunity to move cities and we did! Better neighborhood, better house, better schools, parks galore, and a room for A to have to himself in the new home. This helped us because our other two younger children could share a room and A could be in his room where he wouldn't wake his brothers.

Then A decided that when mommy and daddy went to their bedroom to retire for the night, he would then explore the house and get into things he wasn't supposed to. Sigh...just when we thought things might get easier.

Next step was placing a child latch on his door to keep him in his room. We would then check on him every 30 minutes until he was asleep and then unlatch his door. (We wanted him to be able to leave his room in case of an emergency). We also attached child locks to the doors leading to the outside since we were afraid he may decide to leave the house one evening out of boredom.

Around the same time we were getting A diagnosed for ADHD (age 5) the doctor recommend melatonin after our concern with our sleep battle. I believe a combination of the gluten-free diet he was placed on, the work he was doing at Stowell Learning Center (teaching him to relax and how it feels to relax) and the melatonin have contributed to the change in his sleep behavior.

We don't use the child latch anymore (rarely), he doesn't take as much melatonin at night, and sometimes we forget and he doesn't take any at all, and he is usually asleep within 30 minutes of placing him in his room (unless he is wound up like any child after an exciting event).

Although my husband and I are still attentive to A's sleep at night (we are hard-wired to be alert after years of difficulty with A), we an now have more peace of mind knowing he is getting good sleep and not sneaking around the house at night. Of course, we still use the child locks on the outside doors, just to be safe. :)

Make a Schedule With Your Child

Make a Weekly Schedule
Planners and assignment sheets are something that many students resist during the school year.  It just seems like too much effort. 

But if you’re using a planner or calendar to schedule all of the fun things you want to do during the summer, it becomes a much more engaging and motivating activity.
Use a planner or calendar of appropriate size, sophistication, and media for your child’s age and skill level.

Work together to place lessons, outings, and vacations on the calendar/planner.  Schedule-in daily reading time, time designated for chores, sports practice, etc.
Talk about the calendar, asking your child, “What’s on your schedule for today?” 

When you need to schedule a dentist or doctor’s appointment, or even a time to go see a movie or a baseball game, have your child check his calendar to see where he can fit it in.
As you get close to school starting again, start brainstorming how your child will use his calendar or planner during the school year.
Have a great summer, from Stowell Learning Center

School is Over-How to Keep Up with Summer Reading

School is over - no more reading!
It can be a grand and glorious feeling for students who struggle with reading.  Of course there are others who can't wait for school to be out so that they can do nothing but read all summer!

If your child struggles with reading, let's not make this torture.  At the same time, let's not ignore emerging reading skills.   Below are just a few suggestions for getting started with summer reading.

Here are some tips from Stowell Learning Center.

Getting started with summer reading:
Research tells us that simple reading practice during the summer makes a big difference in preventing the loss of reading skills.
  • To improve reading skills, children need access to books of interest that match their skill level. Again, they've got to read stuff that they LIKE...that they are really interested in! And it needs to be at their skill level.

  • Teach your child how to use the "Five-Finger Rule" to guide the difficulty level of their book choice.

    Have your child read about 100 words in a book and raise one finger for every word they can't read. If they raise more than five fingers, the book is probably too hard.

  • Involvement with an adult (parent, relative, neighbor, babysitter, family friend) that can help guide the child's reading and understanding, makes a significant and positive difference. Get someone involved with your child to help him or her read. Maybe that's someone who is a fan of the topic your child is reading about.

    Make it a special time to get to read with someone special.

  • To improve visual processing speed and help with reading, play a game called "Needle in a Haystack."

    Take a page from a newspaper or magazine and time your child as s/he circles all the occurrences of a specific letter, letter pattern or word. Make it a contest with a great reward for the winner!
These few things can make reading not only happen, but also be an enjoyable part of the summer.

Friday, June 6, 2014

School and Spring Fever

I even get spring fever as a teacher and work hard to stay focused in my classroom to make sure students finish the year out successfully. Here are some tips from Stowell Learning Center for parents and working through spring fever.

It's right around the corner...everyone knows it...especially your student...

Summer Vacation!
Sun, fun, sleepovers, camping trips, staying up late and sleeping in late...it's no wonder our kids are anxious this time of year!  Even I'm getting distracted thinking about summer vacation!
And while this anxiety is the positive kind, it can still be a distraction in school and certainly during homework.
But if you still have some more school days, how do you help your child stay "in the game" until school actually ends?
It's really not difficult to help your child stay in their "learning mode" until school is out, but it does take some planning on your part.
Homework Tips
Homework Problem:
Spring Fever

While the term Spring Fever seems to have come from the Colonial times to describe the symptoms of scurvy, it has taken on a meaning that now means the excitement and giddiness that comes with more sun, longer days, and warmer weather. All of which can cause distraction issues in your student.

Take heart in knowing, however, that it also means that your student will be happier due to the higher level of the mood-elevating neurotransmitter Serotonin. Serotonin is our body's naturally "happy chemical!"
Homework Solution:
4 Steps to "Staying Cool"
Now is the time to capitalize on your student's increased positive mood and renewed energy to help keep them on track for a strong academic finish.  Here are four ways to do just that:

  1. Communicate with the teachers.  Reach out to your child's teacher with a phone call or email.  Keep this contact brief and positive even if they have less than positive news for you (including late or missing assignments). 

    Acknowledge that you understand how difficult it must be to motivate a classroom full of youngsters this time of year and assure them that you are willing to do whatever you need to do to make their job easier.

  2. Find new goals to set with your child.  This should include short term goals for finishing their year strongly AND longer term incentives that give them a treat when they do finish strong. 

    Again, keep it positive and focused on their needs.  Goals should include homework, schoolwork, behavior and organization all the way up to the last day of school.

  3. Encourage, Encourage, Encourage.  We know how difficult it is to be positive when your child is doing less than their best in school.  So remember to remain calm, avoid lecture, listen to your child, be patient, provide positive options and remind them that they CAN do it!

  4. "Pay the piper" when needed.  As adults, we don't like failure and we certainly don't like to see our children fail when we can help them!  Sometimes, however, failure is exactly what they need to LEARN! 

    Allowing your child to bear the natural consequences of their decisions is a healthy way for them to learn from their mistakes.  And there will be other opportunities for them to succeed!