Monday with Maureen: IEPs Need to Be Read

Our shared post for today is an article written by The Mighty staff editor Ellen Stumbo, and it’s definitely worth a read.

With school back in session and so many of our products doubling as educational toys and therapeutic tools, we hear a number of customers either lamenting their unrecognized individualized education plans (IEPs), or rejoicing over teachers putting forth extra effort in addressing the needs of their children. While many educators certainly do take the time required for proper implementation of IEPs, many also forget, end up slammed with other tasks, don’t receive the IEPs in a timely manner, or in some cases, fail to see any importance in following the IEP at all.

It completely depends on the teacher, the school, the child, the district – so many moving pieces can affect how an IEP is received. This doesn’t make them any less important, however. Ellen Stumbo’s piece about this very issue is a thorough, passionate discussion of how IEPs need to be taken seriously by the education system, and if you can sympathize with the matter or would like to learn more about what it’s like to struggle against academic red tape, reading her article is a great way to spend your next few minutes.

Monday with Maureen: “Helping Your Kids Stand Up to Cyberbullies When You’re New in Town”

Helping Your Kids Stand Up to Cyberbullies When You're New in Town

Cyberbullying is the high-tech, mutated version of bullying that so many of our children encounter nowadays. Noah Smith offers insights and advice for handling cyberbullying wisely, guidance usable for both victims and their families. Noah loves sharing his travel advice on WellnessVoyager. He tries to take one big trip each year, is currently saving up to backpack through Europe, and graced our blog with his presence this morning through these insights into the mental health struggles so many endure throughout their childhood.

 

Author: Noah Smith

Mention the word “bully” and what comes to mind? For many adults, the term conjures up images of a juvenile thug with tattered clothes and big muscles stealing lunch money from his terrified victims. In some ways this classic depiction still rings true. In other cases, however, bullies have traded in the street corner shakedown racket for smartphones and social media accounts. Experts call this new, high-tech form of harassment cyberbullying. In many ways, the effects of cyberbullying are far more devastating than the old school approach. Here’s why:

 

  • Anonymity. Cyberspace enables a bully to torment others while shielding the offender from reprisal. The old “sock ’em in the nose” approach to fighting an aggressor is useless in such cases. This fact worsens the target’s sense of helplessness.
  • Vulgarity. Digital media removes the face-to-face aspect of communication that makes people prone to civility. Cyberspace is a virtual free-for-all in which the only rule is to cause as much pain as possible by using any means necessary.
  • Accessibility. Internet access and smartphones are cheap and easy to get. This enables anyone with a grudge to turn the cyberworld into a place to indulge their darkest impulses. In some cases, disturbed individuals have found a lost phone and used it to cyberbully complete strangers.

 

Anonymous, abusive, and elusive: these qualities make cyberbullies dangerous. The consequences of their actions are especially dangerous to adolescents. Peer approval is all-important during the formative years of one’s life. According to a paper from Toronto University Worldwide, rejection or ostracization can set the stage for later problems such as bad grades, drug addiction, and even criminal activity.

 

Why Cyberbullies Love to Target the New Kid

Not all kids experience cyberbullying, of course. As with traditional bullies, digital predators focus on those they see as weak or vulnerable. Quite often, their chosen victim is the new kid in school. According to Psychology Today, this is because newcomers are socially isolated. They have yet to develop a network of supportive friends, making them easy prey. A recent arrival may find her email or social media account filled with offensive messages from people whom she had no idea existed a few days before. The effects can devastate her self-esteem and set her up for years of lonely isolation.

 

Watching this happen to anyone’s child is tough for concerned adults. The emotional toil is catastrophic when the victim is your own kid. The good news is that neither parents nor their family members are helpless in the face of cyberbullying. Here are proven ways you can fight back:

 

  • Begin by placing blame where it lies: with the bully. The victim should refuse to feel flawed or worthless, no matter what the cyberbully says or does. This act of self-assertion lessens the predator’s power to harm others.
  • Document everything. Nothing in cyberspace ever goes away. While this fact adds to the pain of cyberbullying, it also creates an everlasting record of the bully’s misdeeds. For this reason, it’s vital to never delete demeaning or threatening messages.
  • Use the available tools. Email and social media providers offer powerful tools to secure accounts and foil predators. Make sure you kids know how to use them. They should never share passwords, divulge sensitive information, or share embarrassing or inappropriate images via digital means.
  • Get help. There’s no reason for those targeted by cyberbullies to feel bad about alerting parents, teachers, or other authority figures to what’s going on. Doing so can help to stop the predator from targeting other victims in the future.
  • Create a safe space at home. You can do this by establishing an “Internet free” period of time during which everyone in the home, adults included, must log out of their accounts, turn off all devices, and reflect on the events of the day. Your child should know that she can approach you during this interval to discuss whatever is on her mind. This will give her a much-needed sense of emotional security that will help her to face who or whatever may come her way, including a cyberbully intent on gaining emotional satisfaction at her expense.

 

Cyberbullies can cause a lot of undeserved suffering. But using the tips discussed in this post can help parents and kids to stand up for their rights, making the Internet a safer place for everyone.

Monday with Maureen: Wobbling Can Be Wonderful

Kids are well into the school year now that fall is just around the corner. For fidgeters, friends who can’t sit still, learners affected by ADD or ADHD, and even anxious kiddos who wiggle around as they combat their stress, a wobbly chair can make a world of difference. Kore Wobble Chairs are stools with patented rounded bottoms, allowing kids to wobble and improve balance while doing school work, playing video games, snacking, or pretty much anything activity involving sitting. Check out this video and see what you think! Who knows – maybe it’s just the thing you or your kiddo needs! See what colors we carry on our website, and let us know if we can get you one of these wonderfully wobbly chairs.

Monday with Maureen: “A Very Bad Day”

This post is more than an account of what kiddos on the autism spectrum can experience day to day. It’s a story about parenting, about courage and learning, about understanding and listening, about encouraging and pushing when you have to in order to help someone succeed. It’s a story about a parent just as much as it is about a child, I think, and that mingling of perspectives caught my eye as I read. Sho H, author of this post and its blog source, H2Au: the stuff of our life, is a blogger, copywriter and freelance writer. Also published on The Mighty, she writes about Autism, hidden disabilities and parenting children with additional needs. She lives in Scotland, UK with her husband and two daughters, and her work can be found at the following links:

  • https://www.facebook.com/H2Au.thestuffofourlife/
  • https://twitter.com/H2AuStuffofLife
  • https://h2au.wordpress.com/
  • h2au.thestuffofourlife@gmail.com

Author: Sho H.

“It’s been a very bad day Mummy” was the phrase repeated continually yesterday evening after I collected Little Miss H from school.

Standing in the playground I knew it had been. I could tell by her gait, by her facial expression, by the purple bags under her eyes against her too pale skin, by the sadness of her aura. As she slowly walked towards me, scuffing her boots along the salted concrete of the playground, her eyes downcast, her hand up to her mouth chewing her sleeve and her water bottle hanging forlornly from her other hand, I knew we were in for a tricky evening.

I suppressed the urge to say “stop scuffing your boots” (do you know the damage the salt does to the leather?), or “stop chewing your sleeve” and instead just held my arms open for her. She doesn’t usually like public displays of affection especially at school (“It’s against the rules to hug and kiss at school”) but I could see she needed some overt love.

She didn’t come into my arms for a cuddle but she was demure and allowed me to touch her arm.

Her water bottle had been broken that day and she was frightened she’d be in trouble. Mostly though she was just sad. Disproportionately heartbroken actually. You see change is hard for her. Saying good bye to things is really hard. Her stuff is her portable safe space that she attaches so much love and importance to, it keeps her grounded so to have a piece of it broken is like someone throwing a brick through your window. It is devastating for her.

Of course I reassured her that the broken water bottle could be replaced. [No it won’t be the same one, it’ll be a new one but you can choose it. No I can’t fix the old one. Yes I know X person gave it to you for your birthday and yes I know it’s the fourth one that’s broken in however long. Yes I know it matched your pencil case and yes I know it was a ‘Frozen’ one].

With an unexpected burst of energy she was suddenly confrontational. These shifts come out of the blue.

We were due to take Tiny Miss H to Rainbows and this was suddenly proving too much for her.

She was shouting at me that she didn’t want to take her to “stupid rainbows” and it wasn’t “fair”, that she’d “be bored” and why should she have to go with us just because Tiny had an activity…. And so it went on. The real issue is she wanted her safe space, she wanted to hunker down after an exhausting day.

The challenge is enabling Tiny to maintain an ‘ordinary’ life, which includes after school activities, at the same time as supporting Little’s needs. If anyone has the answer on how to get the balance right please let me know.

There isn’t an option, she is eight years old, she was coming with us, so with my arm wrapped tightly around her shoulders we walked towards the car. The deep pressure, once she’s ready to let me touch her, is very reassuring for her and being hypo-sensitive she needs a very tight squeeze. So it was that I held her as firmly as I could with one arm whilst holding Tiny’s hand with my other hand and walking clumsily as if in a sort of three legged race, bags bashing against my shins, all of out of sync, we somehow managed to get to the car!

That’s when she said it “it’s been a very bad day mummy”

Chats in the car are usually the most successful; no expected eye contact, the crowd and melee of the playground has dispersed and we are away from the source of stress.

It turned out that she had been “mobbed” and crowded around at lunchtime in the playground and she didn’t have the ability to extract herself. She didn’t know what to do, what to say, who to go to for help. So stuck in the mob, she drowned. She’s carried that with her all afternoon.

The physical toll it had taken on her was visible to see. She was anxious, stressed and absolutely exhausted.

This on top of the broken water bottle made it “a very bad day”.

Within the 7 minute journey home she had told me it was “a very bad day” about twelve times.

This is echolalia, repeating herself is a form of stimming. It helps her cope with anxiety.

When she has bad days we have a ritual which helps her get from the car to the house and that is a “Mummy squeeze” once in the kitchen – a prolonged super tight cuddle. It physically hurts me she is so strong, but it is what she needs so squeeze away we do. I feel like a tube of toothpaste being squeezed, I can barely breathe, she feels like I’m lightly holding her yet I’m using as much force as I can muster! “It was a very bad day” she mumbles into my chest.

This helps her calm and from there I was able to persuade her that whilst Tiny was at her Rainbow’s Pyjama party we would go and choose her a new water bottle.

Meanwhile she’d also clocked the box of books in the hallway that we inherited a while back from cousins and I’d been storing in the garage. Luckily they proved a timely distraction! “It was a very bad day mummy” she muttered to the books as she rifled through the box.

We successfully deposited Tiny at her pyjama party but with all the distraction I had forgotten her cuddly toy and blanket…cue a mini tantrum from Tiny!

Finally extricating myself from the clutches of the Tiny tirade – I escape outside frazzled and on tenterhooks to persuade Little to walk with me to the butchers before going on to buy her bottle. Reluctant to walk anywhere normally I was braced for the fall out but in response all I got was “It was a really bad day Mummy”. She was so well behaved in the butcher’s that they gave her a fudge. She decided it had been worth walking! “Still a bad day?” with an eyebrow raised, “Mmm” she shrugged, “it’s getting better”.

On to the supermarket to buy her bottle, I managed to persuade her to make a practical and useful choice that would withstand at least some playground action without too much argument. We’d been playful and chatty walking round the supermarket. Things had turned around. I was still on edge keeping it light, keeping her happy. Then we bumped into Tiny’s class teacher who stopped to chat. The transformation from playful and chatty was marked. Little Miss went quiet and couldn’t make eye contact. Out of the context of school, her confidence had melted away and her anxiety kicked in. To a stranger this would appear as ‘shyness’ but it’s different.

Selective mutism is an extreme social anxiety that results in an inability to speak. It is involuntary and more than simple shyness. I’m proud though as she did manage to squeak something to me as the teacher was walking away. Then straight back to being chatty with me once we were safely alone again.

At the till, the cashier told us the amount and Little Miss repeated it in various voices, over and over and over again. Anxiety making her repeat the words. Again, her echolalia. The opposite if you like from selective mutism. Still anxiety driven and not necessarily ‘appropriate interaction’. I could see the anxiety ramping up so a quick distraction technique was needed. Her forte is maths so I made it her job to tell me how much I still owed each time I produced a coin and that busied her brain but in between each amount she still repeated the total amount in a strange voice. The cashier was so patient, smiling and friendly and put absolutely no pressure on her, instead only complimenting her on the maths. The fact there was no queue and no one else around at that moment helped all of us enormously. I didn’t feel stressed or self-conscious, and Little Miss just did her thing.

Once back in the car she asked for water and I didn’t have any. I, almost flippantly, suggested she run back in to buy some. My genuine intention was to buy time whilst I was finishing putting something away in my bag before going back in myself but to my utter astonishment she said “OK”!

So…We talked about what she would do, where she would go, how to choose what she wanted, where she would pay. We talked about the change she’d wait for, the route back to the car and the fact I would not move from the spot I was in. We land marked where I had parked for her to reference it. It was a HUGE amount of information we covered.

She hesitated. She took the coin. She ran. She went round the corner…… I watched and watched and watched, heart hammering and holding my breath until finally there she was running back with a bottle of water in her hand, a smile on her beautiful face, pride in her eyes and flushed cheeks to show for it.

She had gone round the corner to the door of the shop, walked in, turned right to the fridge, chosen still water (not flavoured, not fizzy, just plain , it’s all she drinks), she stood in the queue with two people in front of her and waited calmly (“feeling very nervous mummy” she told me), and when it was her turn the same lady recognised her and helped her through, I’m still not clear whether she actually spoke, but she waited for her change, and ran back to the door, turned left, round the corner and sprinted back to the car “7 spaces down” she told me. Climbed in out of breath, heart hammering (or was that mine?), asked me to open her water and drank it. “I’m so proud of you darling” I told her, “I’m really proud of myself” she said.

SHE DID IT. I smiled with tears streaming down my face as we drove to collect Tiny.

“It was a very bad day mummy” she told me at bedtime, “but it ended well” we said in unison.

Monday with Maureen: Liz Sparling on Imaginative Play

For those of you who remember when Liz Sparling presented during one of our early in store workshops, this post will be every bit as sweet as it is thoughtful! Our friend, Liz, is the Clinical Director of Pivot Point Family Growth Center Inc. and a certified behavioral analyst, as well as a top notch presenter and public speaker. Plus, she’s the parent of a twenty-something with autism, as if having mothered a teenager doesn’t already elevate her to Wonder Woman status.

Liz posted this little video through FIVE Behaviour Consultation Services Inc’s Facebook page, and it looks like there will be more on their way soon. In this particular video, she discusses use of simple toys like blocks to encourage children in exercising their imaginations during play therapy. Having gathered insights and knowledge from years of life and work experience, Liz has ample insights about how parents can be confident in creatively engaging their children. Check out her new video now, and keep your eyes peeled for more videos from Liz!

Parent2Parent: Well, it was suggested to me that I create short videos on a variety of topics (tips and tricks) that may be of interest to families. I envision these videos to include ideas around play, socialization or daily living skills. If there's a topic you'd like to know about – please add a "Dear Liz" comment and I'll try to respond to your question! I've uploaded my inaugural video on how to incorporate blocks into play with kids with ASD.

Posted by FIVE Behaviour Consultation Services Inc on Friday, August 18, 2017

Monday with Maureen: “When a Friend’s Brave Act for My Son Knocked the Wind Out of Me”

First of all, this post I found on The Mighty was so well-written I just had to share it, because a strong narrative voice and good writing are too delightful to pass up. Second, I may or may not have gotten notably misty-eyed while sitting here in the store, surrounded by toys and bright colors but inexplicably emotional nonetheless, and apparently I’m wishing the same fate on all of you (happy Monday). And third, this account of a mother’s dire situation and how it was met with awe-inspiring kindness makes me want to listen closer to the lives of those around me. I hope it inspires you to do the same.

Author: Jessica, a mom whose story has been told by Carla and Michelle of Hey Little Fighter.

My son, Caleb, is a looker. He’s only 5 years old, but at 36 pounds and nine surgeries, he’s a real head turner. That wasn’t always the case (says his mom who doesn’t believe a word of that). Even at 2 pounds soaking wet and not at all ready to brave the world, he was gorgeous to me. It took my son a few months to look like a real baby, but he came around. That scary NICU place let him out after seven months, and our days of surgeons, scrubbing in and gown-wearing were over. That feeling was actually short-lived but that’s another story.

One day, I found myself the victim of the proverbial rock and hard place. Our medical supplier called to say our coming shipment was denied due to insurance changes (non-fixable by me and with a full one day’s notice!). I’ll spare you the details and just say it was a nightmare. What does any mom in this situation do? My son’s shipment literally contained his nutrition, the one and only thing he “ate,” his tube-feeding formula. After the phone calls, tears and offers to trade kidneys, I turned to Facebook.

In my desperation and spilling of all emotions to a group of moms who would “get me,” I didn’t realize the settings of the group were open. That means all my friends saw my sad, desperate plea for help from other moms who might have extras of this particular formula.

Let me gently remind you — my horrifying problem involved my infant son not getting his only source of nutrition, his specialized formula, to my house. No, I couldn’t feed him something else, and no, I couldn’t buy it myself. A box of six cans was over $200 or more. At the time, it was the only thing he could get through his g-tube, and it was cost-prohibitive for us.

Then there was this friend… Delaware is lucky to have her. 

Remember how everyone saw my hideous post screaming to the winds for help? My friend, Jessica, saw the post and helped in a way that knocked the wind out of us.

Her son was in the NICU facing IUGR (intrauterine growth restriction), liver failure and coagulopathy (a condition that affects blood coagulation), and even so, she showed an incredibly generous and brave heart.

She saw my post and sent the information of the formula my son needed along with our address to several of her friends and family she thought could help. Explaining our situation, she told them if they could buy and send us the formula, to please do it. No yes or no answers needed to her email.  Jessica told them if financially they could help, to just do it. And did they ever.

Let me spare you the ugly-cry details, but that one Facebook interaction fed my son for months. Within two days, boxes of formula arrived at my doorstep.

The brave, generous and incredibly bold act she took upon herself to reach out to others, and even dig out of their own hearts and wallets to help my family — well, that just changed my life. I saw what the power of desire could do for the better. By the time our insurance situation was fixed, over a month had passed. Sometimes I still wonder… what would I have done otherwise?

Years later, I’m still moved that most of the kind souls who helped us in times of need didn’t know us from Adam or had never heard of my son’s medical conditions. (Caleb has short bowel syndrome, pulmonary vein stenosis and hypertension and gastroparesis.) They just sympathized with another hurting human being.

I try to make a difference wherever I go, because I remember that generosity of spirit. It was more than opening their wallet to my family; they opened their hearts to my son’s heart and literally his stomach.

Give a smile, a dollar, a handshake or hug. If it’s in your hand or heart to help, do it. Even in the most unconventional way, you could change a life. Because I’ll never forget that time my friend used Facebook to feed my son.

Monday with Maureen: Senseez on “Why Vibrations Help!”

We shared a video from Senseez a couple months back, you might remember. It featured the creators of Senseez seat cushions and included a blurb about where the company came from, why they do what they do, and other fun tidbits about the company. Here’s another video from them, this time explaining the significance of vibration as both a soothing addition to a child’s space, as well as a focus-inducing sensation sometimes helpful for kiddos who might be too anxious or distracted to absorb new information. Check it out if you’re a fan of the product, or if you want to learn more about how calming sensory input can benefit kids at home and in educational environment.

Check out our selection of vibrating Senseez seat cushions here: https://therapyinabin.com/?post_type=product&s=senseez

Monday with Maureen: “15 Tips for Helping Children With Sensory Sensitivity Brush Their Teeth”

If your kiddo fights toothbrushing time, these tips from Christina Kozlowski could be a great start for transitioning to a smoother routine. In particular, these thoughts can offer some guidance for parents and guardians of children with Sensory Processing Disorder or sensitivities specific to oral hygiene. While this post is certainly not the only reference you should consider before formulating a plan for toothbrushing time, some of these tips might help you generate ideas to use as stepping stones during further research and consultation.

 

Author: , OTR/L and owner of Sensory TheraPLAY Box, LLC, the monthly sensory toy box for children with autism and/or sensory needs.

Most kids run away from the sight of the “terrible toothbrush.” However, for children on the autism spectrum with sensory issues, this can be even more of a challenge. There can be many different factors and reasons for a child’s aversion to toothbrushing. There may be some hypo- or hyper-sensitivity and oral defensiveness going on. With hypo-sensitivity, kids might have less awareness of what’s going on in their mouths, which can contribute to anxiety related to the mouth area (think of it as a type of oral “numbness”). On the flip side, kids who are hyper-sensitive might be overly conscious and sensitive to oral stimulation. The slightest touch can be overwhelming and be perceived as painful.

Although I am a licensed occupational therapist, the tips below are general suggestions and not an individualized therapy plan. If you have concerns, a speech-language pathologist or occupational therapist trained in oral motor therapy can offer a complete an evaluation and put together an individualized therapy plan with recommendations that take all factors into consideration.

However, for some general ideas and helpful insights that can be used in a trial-and-error type of approach, read on! Below you will find my tips that might help your child be more independent with toothbrushing and keep those pearly whites squeaky clean.

1. Some children may find the sensation of the bristles uncomfortable. Try using a brush with extremely soft bristles or silicone bristles. A baby toothbrush could be a useful transition tool to help your kiddo eventually transition to a regular brush. For example, the Banana brush is a baby training toothbrush that has short bristles made of silicone that can help to desensitize.

2. A toothbrush that can get the job done faster. For example, a three-sided toothbrush such as DenTrust cleans faster and gets all three sides with just one brush motion. The bristles are super soft to gently clean the gum tissue.

3. Experiment with different toothpastes. Some kids don’t like the taste of the mint and can perceive it to be a painful, burning sensation. Try different flavors of toothpaste, such as bubblegum, strawberry, orange, etc.

GUM Crayola Squeeze-a-Color comes in toothpastes that are all different colors and flavors (melon blast, blueberry burst, and jazzy apple). You can let your child squeeze a little from each tube to mix and match the colors and flavors and have some fun with it. Also, Banilla Bling is a vanilla ice cream flavored toothpaste.

4. If your child is sensitive, maybe flavored toothpaste isn’t the best option. Also, the foaming of the toothpaste may be the culprit, causing unpleasant sensory sensations and discomfort. Oranurse is a flavorless and non-foaming toothpaste that was initially created for children on the autism spectrum who were were sensitive to strong flavors and taste. Overall, this toothpaste doesn’t foam and has zero flavor, which may help ease your child’s comfort.

5. Focus on finding the right toothbrush. Make sure the toothbrush is the right size for little hands and has soft bristles that don’t hurt gums. An electric Spinbrush can make toothbrushing more fun because some children love the feel of the vibrations. Another fun option is a flashing timer brush (Crayola makes one that lights up for two minutes, letting children know when brushing time is up.)

6. If your child is a music lover, consider a singing toothbrush. There are lots of varieties of musical toothbrushes on the market, from ones that sing songs to ones that make animal noises.

7. If a singing toothbrush with all the fancy bells and whistles doesn’t sound too appealing to you, simply sing a song your child loves while they brush. If the brushing stops, you stop singing. You can even play a favorite song on your phone and pause it if they stop brushing.

8. Brush when your child brushes. Brush your teeth at the same time as your little one. Be enthusiastic about it, making it look appealing.

9. Take turns brushing. Let your little one brush their own teeth first before you do it for them. You can also try and give your child your brush and let them brush your teeth while you brush theirs (it can be a good distraction!).

10. Try brushing teeth while in the bathtub. You can also give your child a cup and some bath toys while you brush his/her teeth at the sink. Water play at the sink is a simple distraction.

11. Brush in front of the mirror. This might help your child feel more control of the situation. Visually being able to see the toothbrushing process can help as opposed to a situation where you’re facing your child and they cannot see what’s going on.

12. Visual supports and schedules. A visual schedule can be created by taking photographs of the steps of toothbrushing. Option 1: You can cut and laminate the photos, putting velcro on the back of each one. Arrange in chronological order on a board and as each step is completed, the corresponding picture is removed. Option 2: Print photos of the toothbrushing process, laminate the pages, and a dry-erase marker can be use to check off each step (so that the page can be reused day after day). Option 3: Snap a picture of each step of the toothbrushing process, load the pictures on to a digital picture frame and program it so that each photo is displayed for 10-second intervals. This can be used in the bathroom as they are brushing their teeth so they have a visual prompt when it is time to move on to the next step.

13. Try a timer. Sand timers or using the stopwatch on your phone are great for making how long to brush more understandable. You can start with just a few seconds and work up to a full two minutes.

14. If brushing really is a battle, it’s completely OK to start small. If your child isn’t comfortable with a regular toothbrush, or the electric toothbrush, start with brushing only one or two teeth for a couple seconds, (maybe with the baby silicone bristle toothbrush?), then stopping. A couple days later, you can “up” the amount of teeth you attempt to brush and add on a few more seconds. It’s OK to try this method and go slow. Sometimes a desensitization process is needed.

15. Consider water temperature. Have you always brushed your teeth with cold water? Is cold water what you use when brushing your child’s teeth? If so, try switching it up and using warm water. You child may be sensitive to the cold water and tolerate a warmer temperature a lot better.

Monday with Maureen: “Playground ‘Fads’ Can Be the Social Glue for Kids With Disabilities”

Author: Janie Townsend, Assistant Manager at Mindful Toys/therapy-puppy-in-training wrangler/dark chocolate enthusiast.

Scanning The Mighty last week, I found a piece written by Emma Pierce, who works in special education and resource development for kiddos with disabilities. She challenges the assertion that any playground fad should be banned or snuffed out without exception for the sake of maintaining order in a classroom environment, which caught and held my attention in light of the raging popularity of fidget spinners this spring and summer.

Personally, I’ve been frustrated with the spinner sensation. Don’t get me wrong, I have a fidget spinner myself and I love it. I have pals who benefit greatly from having a motion-based fidget, a cycle of weighted movement neutralizing anxiety and fulfilling sensory-seeking needs. For folks who need some help self-regulating, the spinners are brilliant. But their popularity as a cool toy has them exiled from many schools, and openly judged by parents who haven’t been given the opportunity to see their usefulness. Plus, the knowledge that some manufacturers can pump out cheaply, poorly made spinners and still make a buck due to their popularity annoys me to no end, now that I’m used to working with vendors who prioritize product quality since so much of their stock is geared toward the development and comfort of kids with sensory processing needs.

All this is to emphasize that Pierce’s post humbled me and educated me about how popular toys, whether dubbed “fads” or not, can be the saving grace for social stragglers. Children who find interaction and social situations daunting might receive quicker acceptance into a group if they have a spinner of their own, or the latest deck of Pokemon cards, or a retro lunchbox, or whatever the “cool” thing is at that moment in time. Kids who may come off as “weird” to other children for any reason suddenly have a common denominator, and can more easily practice making and keeping friends.

As someone who vividly remembers the day my mom drove my brother and I to a toy store half an hour away for Kaiba decks during the Yu-Gi-Oh card craze (before my smallish Texas town had toll roads or a nearby Target), I can safely say I never realized these phases allowed kids to slide more easily into relationships with one another. Even so, it makes total sense. I could chat with any classmate about the latest episode of the show or my favorite playing card, regardless of whether I knew or even particularly liked them. So I’m reconsidering my judgments about the unruliness of the current hand spinner fever, trying to be more aware of how such a small thing, whether or not it’s used properly or manufactured lovingly, can improve a child’s quality of life.

Give Pierce’s post a read, and if you have kiddos with spinners of Pokemon cards or metal lunchboxes (you get cool parent points for that one, by the way), maybe have them read it, too. Just so they know how powerful their playground playing can be.

Monday with Maureen: “How to Improve Concentration and Focus in Your Life”

How to Improve Concentration and Focus in Your Life

Summer is consumed by fun activities and vacations, but it’s also a good time to recharge when you have the chance. Helen Sanders, chief editor of Health Ambition, reached out to us sharing this article about small steps you can take to improve concentration and focus your mind. Give it a read and give it a try this week, and receive the benefits that come with centering yourself during daily tasks. Happy Monday, friends!

 

Author: Helen Sanders

I’ve sometimes wondered – and others have asked – if I have a form of ADD or ADHD. I have a very hard time sitting still, and not a moment goes by in the day when I’m not doing something, playing with something, reading something, or fiddling with something. I’m not a smoker, but I can see why the oral fixation and the need to have something in your hands can be so hard to deal with.

I have a hard time staying focused on anything, so I had to actually find ways how to improve concentration in order for me to be an effective writer, teacher, runner, and martial artist (all of these things require a good deal of concentration).

If you want to know how to improve concentration or how to improve focus, here are some tips that have helped me…

Get your Senses Involved

how to improve concentration

If you want to concentrate more, try and engage all of your senses in what you’re doing. If you’re sitting in a meeting, try and take notes as you listen and see. Engaging your brain and your sense of touch can help make it easier for you to stay awake and alert – no matter how boring the droning may be.

Did You Know: Exercising your mind to improve your concentration and focus can help to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease? Whether you learn something new, memorize information, play games, do puzzles, solve riddles, or do new things with your mind, you’ll keep it active and prevent your mind from decaying as you age.

Use Mnemonics

how to improve concentration

Mnemonics uses visual images as a means of recalling information easily. There are mnemonic devices for just about everything, and you can create your own if you want.

“My very excellent mother just served us nine pickles” is a great way to remember the order of the planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto).

They’ll help you to picture something in your head, and that picture will be related to information you want to remember. If you have a hard time concentrating on important facts, use mnemonics to help you.

Understand the Information

how to improve concentration

If you don’t understand what you’re reading, writing, or listening to, how are you going to focus? In order to be able to concentrate and focus properly, you’ll have to understand the information being presented.

Try and relate the new information to information you already have or understand, or structure it in a way that follows a logical progression. Just like you learn a new recipe by structuring it like an old recipe, structure your information this way to make it easier to remember.

Try Music

how to improve concentration

You should try to use music for your work as well, as it will prevent your mind from wandering. When I write, I love to listen to music. It engages my sense of hearing, and it helps to tie my attention to the computer that I am using to write.

The music has to be coming through headphones directly into my ears, and surround sound or speakers just don’t work for me. Your brain can only multi-task so much, and occupying it with music and work leaves no room for any errant thoughts.

Just make sure the music you listen to matches the work you’re doing.

Understand Yourself

how to improve concentration

Know yourself and how you pay attention. My attention span lasts for about an hour and a half, and then I need a break. Some people can work for hours straight, but they have to down gallons of coffee to make it happen. Find out how you work, and make it easier on your body and your mind by tailoring your schedule accordingly.

Lifehack: Break your work up into chunks, and take a break once you’ve completed a task. I take a break after 90 minutes, and it helps me to focus more on what I’m doing once I get back to it. Plus, it gives my brain time to recover from the wealth of information I’ve typed and read as I work.

Cut Communications

how to improve concentration

Whatever you do, stay offline and incommunicado as much as possible.You don’t want to be distracted by emails, Skype messages, texts, and phone calls, so take your phone off the hook, close your internet window, turn off your cell phone, and close Skype.

Lifehack: Cut yourself off from the internet. If you have a hard time focusing on your work, you need to cut off all distractions. There are some apps what will do it for you. It will block your email, social media sites, and any other non-essential internet pages, helping you to focus on what you’re doing.

Exercises from the Early 20th Century

There’s this nifty book called The Power of Concentration, published in 1918 and written by Theron Q. Dumant. It’s got some great exercises that can help to improve concentration, like:

Focus on a Glass – Hold a glass of water in your hand, and extend your arm to its full length. Now stare at the glass, and hold it still for as long as you can. It can help you gain control over your voluntary muscles, and will sharpen your focus.

Smell the World – Sit in a comfortable spot, and inhale deeply through your nose. Try and isolate each of the smells that you are inhaling, and identify as many as you can. Try this at home, in the park, at the office, or anywhere else. It will help you concentrate your attention on individual things that make up a whole.

Feel Your Body – Listen to your heart beat, your stomach growl, your lungs fill and empty, and your blood pump. Picture your organs working, your blood flowing, and your body doing its thing. You’d be amazed at how relaxing it can be.