Eating is a full body sensory motor experience and feeding difficulties can be complex.
When my now 8 year old child entered preschool for the first time at age 3, I remember being very worried if he would eat at school, how the separation would go and the beginning of toilet training. It was a time of building independence for him and for me.
At the time he had a limited repertoire of foods and became very irritable if he did not eat. Now after working with parents and children as a sensory integration occupational therapist for 25 years I have seen how common feeding challenges are. In fact research states that 20% of children from birth to 7-8 yrs of age will classify as having some type of feeding issue at some point in their lives. That is 1 in every 5.
As parents and educators, we are aware that there are times in development where children struggle more with the process of feeding. The research supports these times, 4-6 months, 12-14 months, 2-3 yrs, 5-7 yrs and 9-11 yrs. In fact 50% of 2 year olds are often picky eaters, as many of us have experienced, however only a little more than half will grow out of it.
So why is feeding so challenging? Eating is the hardest thing we do as human beings. Eating involves 7 different areas of human function and all need to work correctly and together to get the job done. Pretty tall order!
Eating in the first 4-6 weeks of life is an appetite instinct. At 4-6 months it is driven by primitive motor reflexes. But by 6 months and going forward, eating is learned behavior.
Below are the 7 areas that all need to be integrated for successful eating :
- Internal organs – all are used
- Muscular system
- All senses- sight, smell, taste, touch/texture, hearing ( the noises you hear in your head as you crunch), balance, Proprioception ( jaw movement), Interception ( blood glucose levels, satiation, stretch receptors in the stomach)
- Learning- history of learned behaviors related to feeding
- Developmental stage and individual learning style
- Nutritional status
Children with eating/feeding difficulties before the age of 3 should NOT be considered to have behavioral problems. These difficulties are due to skill deficits and or physical problems in one of the 7 major areas listed above.
After seeing how complicated eating really is and how many areas could be challenged in the process, it is clear to see why the research supports that in actually only 10% of the cases, parents are the problem behind children with feeding challenges.
So how do we help our children eat at school and get the nutrition they need to focus and learn.
For children 18 months to 10 years of age a normal metabolism requires food every 2.5 to 3 hours. In order to eat the amount of food a child needs during meals they need approximately 20 minutes to attend to a meal. If physical activity such as recess occurs prior to sitting down to eat, research shows that children will attend and eat better.
Here are some tips for parents and educators as your child heads back to school:
- Environment: Be aware of all the sensory experiences a child is exposed to when eating at home and school. If you can make modifications and adapt the setting that’s a great way to support eating. Occupational therapists can help identify inappropriate environment factors and create suggestions to the family on how to make corrections where it is feasibly possible to do so. When it isn’t, a child can be supported via a “Social Story”. With your child, write a Social Story that discusses where meals will be taken, what will be eaten, where the food might have come from, and what awesome changes happen in the body when you eat well. Collaborate with your child’s teacher before the school year begins by sending an email that includes the social stories you have created and the information you have gathered regarding how to increase successful eating for your child. Working as a team is key.
- Experiencing eating together: Studies show that when an adult sits down with the child and eats a new food with them, modeling the behavior, the outcome has greater chance of success. Websites such as ChooseMyPlate.org are great resources. During this time the children benefit from the adults talking about the sensory qualities of the foods and nutritional qualities. Removing all values judgment such as, “this is healthy and this is junk food”, is best.
- Look at Positioning — Does your child have good supported posture so that she can focus on eating instead of holding herself upright? This is especially important for any child with developmental delays. Are her feet supported on the floor or on a bench so that her hips, knees and ankles are at a 90 degree angle? Is the table at the right height so that her arms can rest comfortably without having to reach way up high? Does she have adequate support at her trunk and back to keep her from feeling like she will fall out of the chair?
- Play With Your Food! Make an effort to play with food that your child may be resistant to. Being able to touch an unfamiliar or undesirable food is a big step in the right direction when the ultimate goal is to get that food into a child’s mouth.
- Practice smelling foods: The sense of smell helps to create the flavors that we taste in food. This is the reason that when we have a cold, nothing tastes quite right. Keep in mind that when you heat foods, they smell stronger! If your child is sensitive to smells, serve food at room temperature.
- Always promote movement before meals: Activating the muscles and joints supports sitting for the desired 20 minutes children need to eat a meal.
Does the child move while eating?
Know How the Body Works — Think about the body awareness, coordination, and motor planning it takes to get your hand to your mouth! Kids have to be able to grade their movements, using appropriate force and timing to be able to feed themselves. You may take this for granted, but for little ones, it can be tricky! Check out the cups and utensils your child uses. How heavy or light are they, and how does this affect the way they eat? Sometimes preschoolers need a little cheerleading and hands on help to get the nutrition they need, to have a successful day at school.
Kids are smart! Provide them with the tools they need to feel comfortable, in control and empowered and they may just surprise you! Remember that eating is a full body sensory motor experience and that feeding difficulties can be complex.
Child Success Center Occupational therapists can answer questions and help.
SOS Approach to Feeding – Dr. Kay Toomey is a pediatric psychologist who has worked for over 20 years with children who don’t eat. She developed the highly effective, family-centered SOS Approach to Feeding to assess and successfully treat children with feeding problems, which is used by therapists worldwide.
Choosemyplate.org – Provides practical information to individuals, health professionals, nutrition educators, and the food industry to help consumers build healthier diets with resources and tools for dietary assessment, nutrition education, and other user-friendly nutrition information. Special activities, recipes and more to inspire kids to eat healthier and move more.
by Gina Costello, Director, Speech Dept., Child Success Center
The joy, intrigue and satisfaction of working with children as a speech-language pathologist.
Working as a Speech Language Pathologist, it’s hard to believe that I saw my first client 18 years ago. I remember the feeling I had leading up to that first session. It was a mixture of excitement, anticipation and a bit of anxiety knowing that I could help an individual communicate in their world and could have a positive impact on their life. It felt extraordinary!
After all of these years working as a speech language pathologist, I continue to feel the same level of joy and intrigue that I did when I was a new therapist. The difference is, now I have the experience,
patience and understanding to help my clients overcome their communication challenges. In essence, I have more “tools” in my toolbox!
There are many reasons why I love what I do! I’m always excited to try the latest therapy techniques and share new educational tools and tips with parents. I find great satisfaction giving parents
strategies and tips to try at home. As a result, families feel more empowered and so does the child.
Recently, a parent expressed how her relationship with her daughter has significantly improved since they started coming to therapy. She thanked me for being a partner in this process. It felt very gratifying to know that we worked as a team to improve her child’s life.
As a speech language pathologist, I’m constantly being challenged to come up with new and creative therapy activities. I love the freedom that I have in creating a session that suits the specific needs of a child. There’s no better experience than greeting a child in the waiting room and watching them race down the hall to my
therapy room with eager anticipation for the session.
One of my favorite parts of my job is the collaboration with other therapists and professionals in the community. The saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” couldn’t be more appropriate when it comes to supporting a child who has a communication deficit.
Over the years the expertise, knowledge, advice and encouragement that I’ve received from other professionals has been invaluable. The best part of my job is watching a child grow into a confident and effective communicator. I have watched children go from being nonverbal to talking in sentences. I have seen children who were once very shy and timid become more confident and enthusiastic when communicating with their peers. Every day I work with families is a gift and a reminder of the positive impact I can have on their lives. I am continuously reminded of how fortunate and honored I am to have this opportunity!
Additional Resources for Parents:
What is Auditory Defensiveness, how are some children affected, and what role does an Occupational Therapist play in treatment?
Commonly, when parents and teachers find out that I am a Sensory Integration trained Occupational Therapist, they will ask questions about either sound sensitivity or touch sensitivity. They will tell me about a child who seems unsettled or distressed in loud environments, frequently covers their ears to sounds that other children tolerate, are bothered by noises made by everyday things like vacuum cleaners and hair dryers, or avoids activities that have loud environments such as parties, ballgames, and movies. These children often ask, “Did you hear that? – What’s that noise? – Who’s talking?”, when the parent doesn’t hear anything at all. Parents may also share that their child seems overly sensitive, is anxious in new environments, needs more protection from the world, and exhibits tactile and or movement sensitivity. What these parents are describing is a condition known as “auditory defensiveness”.
When the World Gets Too Loud
Auditory defensiveness is a clinical condition in which a child is highly sensitive to sound. This means that sounds and voices that would not register at all, or would not be perceived as irritating to a typically functioning nervous system, are perceived by the child as too loud, too high pitched, or otherwise difficult to tolerate, and so he must defend himself against them. The child that is moving through their day in a defensive mode can often struggle to stay calm enough to play with friends, learn at school and be part of a family dynamic at home. To survive they may learn to cope by tuning out, hyper-focusing on something else, holding their hands over their ears, attempting to escape the situation in which they find themselves , or by acting out in such a way that the adults are left no choice but to remove them from the situation. Many times the adults around the child will identify a behavior challenge while not always identifying the root. They may struggle to believe that the auditory issue is real for the child, as their nervous system perceives the incoming sound information differently and without struggle. It may be extremely difficult if a sibling close in age is able to process typically, and therefore presents with more flexibility, and overall, an easier child to parent.
A child with auditory sensitivity is alerted to noises that a typically functioning nervous system would recognize as irrelevant and filter out, and may respond to them as if those things were a cause for alarm. As an adult I will equate this to the cocktail party experience. You are often juggling a plate of food, a glass of wine and a conversation with a new person. There is always a lot of back ground noise. For some adults this is not hard work for their ears. For my nervous system, on the other hand, it can be exhausting. I often feel tired from concentrating on the conversation while simultaneously attempting to filter foreground from background sound.
It’s tough to navigate school as well, when your hearing is so sensitive. For the pre-schooler, the classroom often sounds like a cocktail party—lots of children talking at the same time coupled with conflict situations that may include an upset child. For the elementary school aged child the sounds of the bells, children shouting, the echoing noise of the bathrooms or auditorium, the chaos of the playground and the cafeteria, are all experienced as an assault, and will put a child whose hearing is ultra-sensitive on high alert and force him to stay in that mode.
It is very hard to stay calm, regulated and ready to learn, problem solve and share, when your nervous system is in a constant state of alert. For the majority of the school day, children are listening to a teacher’s voice (often a female voice), and for many children the most challenging types of auditory defensiveness is sensitivity to high pitched sound. A high frequency sound dissipates in the air faster than low frequency. Attuning to the teacher’s voice and then holding on to the directions can be difficult, creating additional learning challenges for the child.
A child with auditory defensiveness may also be experiencing other development and/or learning challenges. There are several ways that sensory integration therapy can help a child with auditory defensiveness. An occupational therapist with advanced practice will be able to assess and treat by improving the ability of the inner ear to do the job of filtering and dampening sound. This is done by providing the child with intense movement experiences. Movement affects the workings of the inner ear, which in addition to filtering sound, is responsible for monitoring where we are in space. As one system improves, so does the other. Occupational therapists with additional training can prescribe special filtered music, like the kind used in “The Listening Program”, that trains the ear and brain to be less sensitive to sound. This music can be very helpful to children who have trouble attending in noisy environments.
Sensory integration therapy works on improving the way that the nervous system function registers, integrates and processes sensory input. An occupational therapist trained in sensory processing employs specific techniques that may include integrating primitive reflex patterns that can often support development.
There are also strategies, that when designed for the individual child and his/her environment, are often referred to as a sensory diet. These strategies may include:
- Modifying the environment (such as in a school) by considering the acoustics in the classroom. Changing seating arrangements may be beneficial and limiting extraneous noise from the hallway by closing the door or windows is also helpful. It may be necessary to cover the loud speaker with material to tone down the volume.
- Having rugs or carpet on the floor will decrease echo and extraneous noises.
- Whenever possible, children should be given advance notice about bells, announcements, fire drills, etc.
- Having the child wear headphones or earmuffs that cover the entire ear to filter out extraneous background noises.
- Playing calming music such as Mozart in the headphones or as background music.
- If concentration is an issue, the child should chew gum, suck on sour candies, and/or eat fruit roll ups, or crunchy snacks.
Generally speaking, a smaller, quieter, more structured classroom is a better fit for a sensory defensive child. I also advise parents not to expect their child to be able to tolerate concerts or to endure long stays at noisy family gatherings until the problem is corrected.
I am often asked if the problem is permanent. Auditory sensitivity may or may not go away, but with appropriate intervention, it should at least, diminish. Sometimes children grow out of their defensiveness and sometimes sensory integration therapy can eradicate it completely. Devising coping strategies, like keeping earplugs and something to chew on in your child’s backpack, helps him feel more in control.
Remember our children need us to play detective. Find out the reason for the behavior. Believe that is it often real for them, even if you don’t feel it, and try to put strategies in place to keep their nervous system calm.
And, as always, you’re not alone. If you have any concerns about your child’s auditory sensitivities, seek out the expertise of a sensory integration trained occupational therapist – they can help make life better for your child and your family.
Sensory Diet – Ways an OT (Occupational Therapist) works with Children and Families to Support Regulation
What really is a sensory diet?
Many occupational therapists use the term, “sensory diet”, when working with children with developmental and/or learning challenges. The term sensory diet was coined by Patricia Wilbarger, M.Ed., FAOTA, OTR in 1984 to indicate the use of a combination of sensory strategies to keep a person at the optimal level of arousal. All human beings unconsciously use sensory diets every day. We exercise, drink coffee, listen to music, retreat to a quiet space when the world gets overwhelming, chew/crunch and eat foods that often make us happy.
Self-regulation is something everyone continually works on, whether we are cognizant of it or not.
Children who are struggling with self-regulation and utilizing the “just right” behaviors that are expected in different environments do not have the mindfulness, resources or control to seek out the activities that may help them shift from the Red Zone (mad, angry) or the Yellow Zone (silly, out of control, anxious) to the Green Zone (ready to listen and learn). Learn more about the Zones of Regulation.
“Sensory modulation” is a therapeutic term used to describe one’s inability to respond appropriately to sensory input and to stay focused on the activity at hand. It may be used with regard to children and adults who may be under- responsive, sensory seeking and or over responsive. It is never black and white. Working with an occupational therapist will help parents and teachers get a better understanding of the why, what and how of “sensory modulation”. The OT will help parents understand the behaviors of a child, help to identify and remove triggers from their environment and better equip the child’s nervous system to cope with the highly sensory world we live in.
An occupational therapist that has spent time assessing a child’s responses to various sensory information, known as “sensory processing/integration” , will design a sensory diet tailored to that child’s needs. This “diet” will include the tools required, (deep pressure, hugging, taking a break, belly breathing, drinking water, wall pushes) and a schedule outlining when to use them, that will support a child’s overall regulatory state and therefore ability to engage in relationships and his/her environment in a successful way.
Additional Resources for Sensory Processing Disorder and Sensory Integration
Is your pre-schooler ready for Kindergarten in the Fall? Child Success Center is happy to announce our 6th consecutive summer of Kindergarten Readiness Camp!
While you might not even be thinking about summer vacation yet, it is definitely the time to start asking yourself if your pre-schooler will be ready for the move up to Kindergarten in the Fall. There’s more to it than you might imagine. Many parents are under the impression that Kindergarten is somewhat akin to preschool and that significant academics really don’t kick in until 1st or 2nd grade, but in newer times that is far from reality.
In recent years, California Kindergarten curriculum has shifted to become far more academically skewed than in past decades and now more than ever, it’s very important to have all children properly prepared for these greater new challenges. To successfully excel in their new setting, children must achieve and master certain educational and social skills to adequately adapt and grow in a more accountable and often faster paced setting.
Additionally, there are many aspects of kindergarten that will be new for your child. The school is bigger, there is more time sitting at a table, more focus on letters and numbers, time spent learning handwriting skills, more time listening and a lot more structure. The days are longer and there is often more independence required.
Parents might consider seeking counsel or advice from teachers or experts and possibly even have an evaluation for their child to ensure that educational and social skill development is on track for entry into Kindergarten in the fall. To help those who may need additional support, Child Success Center is happy to announce our 6th consecutive summer of Kindergarten Readiness Camp. This camp is designed to not only teach and prepare little ones, but also provide tons of fun while they’re learning.
Presented as individual weekly camps or a 2-week session, campers, in small groups of up to 8 children, will spend over 20 hours involved in activities designed to help them develop the foundational learning needed to feel confident entering Kindergarten. The program will help children develop confidence when taking the first steps toward reading, writing, attending to a new routine and making new friends. The huge gymnasium at Child Success Center will be turned into a summer fun learning camp with the aim of turning “learning” into “play”. The camp will feature swings, a trampoline, climbing wall and monkey bars, which will take children on an adventure and build up their kindergarten readiness skills. The program will also feature art, music and science activities that will inspire creative interests and will offer hands-on fun through touching, exploring and games.
Parents can enroll their children in a single weekly program, but enrollment in two or three week sessions will build stronger, lasting skills. Also, as a bonus, multiple week enrollees and those who bring a friend may be eligible for special discounts, so be sure to inquire when you call.
Each Week-long Session Will Teach Your Child To:
- Recognize letters and match them with a name and sound
- Master holding a pencil, marker or crayon
- Develop attention and listening skills
- Socialize and communicate
- Enjoy learning
DATES: Dates: Session 1: July 27 – July 31, 2015
Session 2: August 3 – Aug 7, 2015
Session 3: August 10 – August 14, 2015
TIMES: 8:45AM – 1 PM, Monday through Friday
AGE: Starting Kindergarten in the Fall
ENROLLMENT: Call the Child Success Center on 310.899.9597 or email: email@example.com
COST: Full Fee is $574 per week.
- Early Bird Discount: $495.00 per week, if registration and payment are received by Friday March 15, 2015.
- Multiple week discounts are available. Call for details.
- Discounts are also available if you bring along a sibling or friend. Call for details.
What are the skills a child develops through play?
A child playing with blocks is not just playing. As he is nesting blocks, he is learning size relationship. He learns that smaller blocks fit inside larger ones. He learns cause and effect as he builds his blocks higher and higher until they come crashing down. As the blocks are tumbling down, he can describe it using language. It is while playing that children test ideas, ask questions, and come up with answers.
What are the Skills that a child develops through Play?
During child development, the following skills are developed through play:
Language – Enhances ability to describe what is happening, ask for help and wonder why toys work like they do.
Physical – Enhances fine and gross motor through picking up blocks, putting legos together and jumping around on a trampoline.
Emotional – Ability to work out frustrations by getting a heart shape into the corresponding shape or making a social scenario with dolls to work out conflicts with friends. .
Cognitive/Intellectual – Enhances a child’s ability to think, understand and eventually reason things out while taking in new information about a toy or game.
Social – Socially, children work on managing their feelings, learning skills like sharing and taking turns, and empathizing with other people’s feelings and thoughts.
How can you help?
Try not to involve your children in so many activities that there is no time for play. Creativity takes time to develop, and children can have difficulties entertaining themselves if they are not given time to use their imagination.
1. Show that play is valuable by playing with your children. Children realize that play is important if adults pay attention to them while they are playing and even engaging with them in play.
2. Appreciate and talk to your children about their play. We often say, “You are doing a great job working,” but we may never say, “You are doing a great job playing!”
3. Create an environment for play. It is important for adults to provide materials that children can explore and adapt in play, and if possible, provide a special “play place” or designated area for the pretend play and all the inspiring props. Adults should monitor play, so that when play appears to be “stuck” or unproductive, they can suggest new character roles.
4. Children get ideas for their play from books, movies, field trips, and everyday life. For instance, if your children are interested in a particular topic, such as animals, take them to the zoo, read them abook about farm animals, or watch a movie about animals – they will be filled with ideas for pretend play. You might see your children reenacting the trip or scenes from the movie with friends. This helps them to better remember the experience, and it reinforces all of their newly learned information.
Examples of appropriate toddler toys: pull-push toys; blocks; an assortment of balls; Play-Doh with simple tools (craft sticks and wooden rollers); picture books; containers, scoops, sifters, and other objects for sand and water play; toys and props for dramatic play like scarves, hats.
Imagine The Possibilities with Pretend Play, Amber Hodgson, M.A. CCC-SLP
The New Language of Toys by Sue Schwartz, Ph. D.
Take a look at your child’s pattern of learning. Are his learning skills comparable to other children in his class? Has your child been working with a tutor without measurable improvement?
All children learn differently. Each child has his or her own unique learning and processing style. Some children learn better when they hear information, others when they see it. Still others learn best when they hear and see information simultaneously. In addition, some children face learning challenges that make it difficult to learn the foundational skills necessary to read, write or calculate.
It is the Educational Therapist who helps identify how your child learns best and determine the stumbling blocks that may be preventing your child from reaching his/her potential. The Educational Therapist works in partnership with parents and other professionals working with your child, to ensure that your child gets the right start and continues to grow as a life-long, independent learner.
The educational therapeutic process includes individual interventions designed to remediate areas of challenge in regard to learning, as well as help the child begin to learn about his or her unique learning style. As the child becomes aware of his strengths, he can begin to utilize them in strengthening areas of challenge.
This is an ongoing process which can last anywhere from 3 months to several years. Areas of intervention can include, but are not limited to reading, writing, mathematics, communication and language skills, processing skills, and executive functioning skills. Following the assessment or records review, a program will be recommended if appropriate. For many students the program will be designed in 2 phases.
Learn more about the Educational Therapeutic Process.
Your child may benefit from Educational Therapeutic Services if you recognize any of these Common Signs and Indicators.
Mastering Executive Function and Organization Skills
A new program offered this summer for Middle School and High School Students at Child Success Center
Is your son or daughter preparing to enter middle or high school in the fall and struggling to stay organized? Does he forget to turn in assignments? Does she feel lost when it comes to planning out long-range assignments? If this sounds like your child, he might have challenges with “executive function and time management skills”. Child Success Center offers an opportunity for you and your child this summer to help improve these skills.
Child Success Center uses an effective and proven program based upon the Sklar Process™ that helps your child learn and understand time management and executive functioning skills that are critical for success in all aspects of life. The curriculum teaches both you and your child how to use a variety of visual tools tailored to those with challenges in executive functioning and time management. An Educational Therapist who is trained in this life-changing curriculum will lead 10-12 sessions designed to foster a lifetime of effective behavioral changes for improved time management and organizational skills. This course is the beginning of an ongoing conversation between parent and child about how to effectively and more easily manage school and life.
The program will help the student and parent:
- Increase awareness about procrastination and explore ways to minimize its effect
- Learn how to organize large projects into an action plan within a functional time frame
- Explore the use of visual aids to coordinate a weekly schedule
- Dive into the brain to begin to understand how we process and organize information when managing tasks and keeping to a time schedule
- Improve self-awareness and metacognition in an effort to utilize strengths to support areas of challenge
- Learn about and create tools to manage time, tasks and organizational skills
- Improve communication with others for better time and task management at home and at school
Our Summer Program is now enrolling. Make this the summer for change. Learn more about the Child Success Center’s “Organizational and Executive Function Groups” on our website or contact Maria Fagan Hassani, M.A., ET/P at Child Success Center – 310-899-9597.
Kindergarten Readiness means possessing the skills that will make the transition from pre-school and the school year a success.
How do I know if my child is ready for Kindergarten? What should my child know before entering kindergarten?
If you are asking yourself these questions it probably means that you either have a child whose birthday is in the spring and/or has had some challenges at preschool. Perhaps you feel your child needs more support, protection, adult guidance and is struggling to follow directions, attend, sit still, communicate, hold a pencil, and make friends . The preschool years provide opportunity for a child to grow and develop social communication skills, pre- academic skills, emotional regulation, motor skills and transition from whole body learning to the ability to sit and listen and learn. Often parents are not sure if over the 6 months from spring to fall their child will grow out of their challenges or grow into the skills that they feel are needed for the transition to kindergarten. So if you are one of these parents here are some questions to ask yourself and some information to gather to help in both making a decision and helping your child “Get set for Kindergarten”.
These are some of the questions I ask parents when helping then decide between a developmental kindergarten year or kindergarten.
1. First we review medical history? Think back to your pregnancy and your child’s birth and infant history: where there any issues such as IVF, bed rest, long labor, prematurity, time in the NICU, difficulty breast feeding, colic, poor sleeping patterns, reflux. Our children are hard wired in utero and understanding your child’s neurological full picture from birth is often helpful in understanding your child at age 5.
2. Motor Milestones- Did your baby crawl? When, for how long and what did the crawling look like ( on all 4’s versus commando crawling)? Were there any delays with walking, running, jumping, climbing and do they seem at ease with moving their bodies through space? Is your child a movement seeker, avoider or neither? These questions help you understand the child’s sensory motor wiring and if sitting in a chair for a lot of the school day will be a challenge. For a child to be ready to learn with their eyes and ears and brain their body needs to be ready to sit upright and stay calm for long periods of time.
3. The next set of questions relate to cognitive and emotional development. Babies arrive with fundamental neurologically based social capacities, which are shaped, encouraged and developed through experiential learning and the brains physical development. Did your child have a very challenging time separating from you in the first year of preschool? Do they have good awareness of other’s thoughts and feelings and are they able to talk about them? Do they infer emotions from other children’s facial expressions and can they share in group imaginative play? Do they have a lot of anxiety when going to birthday parties and new places?
4. Language Acquisition: At what age did your child babble and use words, sentences and complex social language to share ideas and problem solve with a peer? Your child’s language prior to kindergarten should be fully functionally. This means they should be using language to ask and answer questions, use appropriate grammar, connect and organize their thoughts, talk about their own personal events and share stories in an organized manner.
5. Handwriting: Does your child have a hand dominance and when did this start? Does he hold the pencil with an adult tripod grasp and is he comfortable drawing shapes and making simple pictures?
6. Letters and numbers: Do they recognize the majority of the upper case letters and has this been a very slow or easy learning process? Are they interested in print material and realize that letters make up words and tell stories?
7. The final question: Is there a family history of challenges with academic or social learning, attention or memory?
All children benefit from learning in an environment that is emotionally safe and provides them the “just right learning challenge”, a challenge that is only slightly above their current capacity and one that is attainable. For many children the transition from preschool to kindergarten offers challenges that are not “the just right” challenge. So how do we help these children? Getting accurate information is key before making decisions. The professionals that are skilled to assess the roots of learning are occupational therapists, speech and language therapists and learning specialists. It is important to take into consideration the whole child including the social emotional systems prior to making this decision. Once an assessment has been made then filling your child’s learning “tool belt” so they feel confident when entering kindergarten becomes the primary objective. Kindergarten readiness camps and individual sessions tailored to the child’s needs are great ways to ensure Kindergarten success.
Ways to gather insight and information.
1- Kindergarten readiness assessments
2- Speech therapy and or occupational therapy assessments
3- Get set for Kindergarten camp
To prepare kids for their new challenges, Child Success Center will be holding Kindergarten Readiness Camp in the summer of 2014, which will offer a play based learning environment designed to help children acquire skills in problem solving, flexible thinking, group collaboration and pre-reading and writing through the use of Zoo Phonics, Handwriting Without Tears and Social Thinking. Our exciting indoor gym will be turned into a fun learning camp with swings, a trampoline, climbing wall and monkey bars to take campers on an adventure while building up their kindergarten skills.
Presented as either individual weekly “Camps,” or a 2 week session, kids will spend over 20 hours a week involved in activities designed to help them develop the skills needed to excel in kindergarten. The program will help children develop confidence when taking the first steps toward making new friends, attending to a new routine, handwriting and reading.
For the young children who lack interest or capacity for writing, letters and numbers can seem daunting. To make this learning fun we love Zoo Phonics. Phonics is the learning of letters and words through sound and it’s taught using a cast of zoo animals. Letters come alive as the children learn to recognize and match them with sounds, then write them with ease. Multisensory activates such as drawing and writing on the walls with shaving cream make this fun and a joyful experience.
Goals will be dependent on the needs of the group of children signed up for the week.; each child will have the ability to participate in activities that will focus on their needs as well as the needs of the other children in the group.
Areas covered include but are not limited to:
1. Social thinking: social skills required to play with others and learn in a group- listening with your whole body, perspective taking, sharing thoughts and ideas, social problem solving,
2. Identifying Upper case letters and match them with a name and sound using using the Zoo Phonics program
3. Learn how to correctly form upper case letters (and lower case letters if they show an interest) using the Handwriting without Tears program
4. Fine motor skills: Master holding a pencil, marker or crayon and handwriting skills
5. Develop attention and listening skills for success in a Kindergarten classroom
6. Promote body awareness through creative play and movement
Begin their love for learning
Is handwriting a dying art or is it still an important skill to master?
“My child’s handwriting is illegible. Do I need to do anything about this? Why do many children struggle with handwriting legibility? Does my child really need to learn handwriting?”
There has been some discussion recently about the viability and necessity of learning penmanship skills. Yet research shows that writing by hand engages the brain and is a vital component of literacy. Since handwritten testing throughout the school system is unlikely to change any time soon, learning to write quickly and clearly is an important means to an end. With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, the emphasis and expectations placed on classroom note-taking and expository writing in grades K–5 is greater than ever.
Whether a child prints or uses cursive writing, it must be legible to convey correct test answers, thoughts, instructions, etc. throughout his academic career and life. Therefore “hand writing” is a skill that must be learned and serves many purposes besides legibility.
While we may take the ability to write correctly for granted, many support skills must first be learned requiring the hand, eyes and brain to work in harmony. This becomes more challenging when a child is experiencing a delay in certain areas of development. This in turn can leave a child with feelings of frustration, decreased confidence and success, and often results in avoidance of the very repetition necessary to build skill.
The years between the ages of 3 and 5 are the time your child will build the motor coordination required to develop the dexterity, hand strength and endurance to shift from a fisted grasp to an adult 3 finger, (tri-pod) dynamic grasp that will allow them to control the pencil with ease.
In order to successfully engage in the Kindergarten curriculum, the foundations for a successful pencil grasp and control need to be in place. Core strength for body control to sit up right and arm strength to hold the paper still and stabilize the writing arm need to be well developed before the art of learning handwriting can occur. Their eyes need to work together to hold a focal point and track and be ready to shift gaze across the paper and from the board to the paper and back with ease. The visual memory system needs to be strong to retrieve the images of letters and begin to make sense of what they are seeing by adding meaning through the matching of sounds with each symbol. Reading and handwriting are a partnership – when one grows the other gets supported.
So why do some children struggle with handwriting and how do we help them?
When this very complicated neurological process has a hard time coming together, a child can be left with feelings of frustration and decreased confidence. Fundamental skills are often learned in the form of play for children and not work. They are driven to continue activities by feeling good and having fun. When the activities in the preschool years such as cutting, drawing, beading, climbing and catching a ball are not easy for them they often have the choice to avoid them, thus not engaging in the repetition actually needed to master the skill.
Teachers and parents may not notice that the child is avoiding these types of play especially if the child is exceptionally verbal and engaging. As adults, we need to be aware that children need to have healthy exposure to activities that will develop their nervous systems during the pre-school years in preparation for activities such as handwriting.
How do I know if my child will get past his difficulties?
Development is an individual process as each child has their own unique brain and their own sets of natural gifts and challenges. When engaging in general activities, parents and teachers can help children by:
- Making the child feel emotionally safe and excited to engage in the activities they may want to avoid.
- Grade the activity down to a level the child can easily engage in.
- Keep the activity as child driven as possible.
- If you are struggling to work with your child consult an Occupational Therapist. OT’s are highly trained in assessing the foundational neurological processes that are the base for all play and learning. They are able to let teachers and parents know if the struggle is rooted in lack of exposure, a mild delay that will catch up on its own, or truly an inefficient processing system that needs guidance and the right support to spring board into a positive outcome.
- If in doubt, ask.
Simple things you can do to help your child with his handwriting skills:
- Make sure your child is seated in a chair and at a table that allows for an upright posture with their feet firmly on the floor. Keep the ankles, knees and hips bent at approximately 90 degrees.
- Encourage the non-dominant hand to support the paper.
- Take a small cotton ball and place it under the 4th and 5th digits and secure it into the palm to help build the separation of the 2 sides of the hand to increase pencil grasp.
- Play bouncing, throwing at a target and catching games.
- Draw letters on each other’s back and try to guess the letters.
If left un-monitored, children may begin to:
1. Have a negative relationship with learning
- Have a negative relationship with learning
- Write a few words instead of the many ideas and thoughts they would like to share
- Have decreased confidence and self-image related to written work.
- Spend valuable brain energy on the handwriting process instead of the thoughts and ideas and learning process
Handwriting should be fun and requires the whole brain and the whole body.
The “Handwriting Club” at Child Success Center is a program customized to meet each child’s needs. Program is designed and run by licensed and highly skilled Occupational Therapists and features multi-sensory strategies, whole brain learning, and the extremely successful Handwriting Without Tears® program.
For more details or to enroll, call Child Success Center at 310/899-9597 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org