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Friday, October 31, 2014

How to Help Students Plan, Organize and Manage Time

Simple tasks such as using an agenda or turning in an assignment seems obvious to many, but for some young learners these tasks can be very difficult to master.  In fact, some students require comprehensive instruction and scaffolding to plan, manage time, and organize.  Executive functioning, which manages these skills, is the last part of the brain to fully develop, and in fact, it does not fully maturate until students reach their mid 20's. 

How Hard Can it Be to Plan, Manage Time and Organize?
When I first began working with students that struggled with executive functioning, I was astounded how challenging planning, time management and organization could be for some of my bright learners.  What seemed to be obvious was obscure and taxing for them. 

These Difficulties are Misunderstood:
Students that have difficulties with planning, time management and organization are often maltreated with discipline and erratic methods that result in poor grades. In addition, many of these students are told that they are unmotivated, lazy and careless.  What's more, these negative labels only worsen the problem by making the students' feel frustration, anger and even helplessness.  Acquiring accommodations for students that struggle with executive functioning is challenging, and now, with a multitude of technological tools at our fingertips, each teacher seems to have a unique way of communicating and collecting assignments.  As a result, this population of learners' need for consistency is neglected.

What are the Symptoms of an Executive Functioning Deficit?  
These students often:
1.   misplace materials.
2.   fail to turn in assignments.
3.   avoid things until the last minute.
4.   underestimate the time it takes to complete a task.
5.   fail to document homework in an agenda or planner.
6.   forget materials at school.
7.   forget materials at home.
8.   neglect to prepare for tests and quizzes.
9.   avoid planning and breaking down long-term assignments into manageable tasks.
10. fail to plan for midterms or finals.
11. forget important details.
12. miss important notes or directions.
13. lose mental stamina.
14. misplace materials.
15. rush through school work.

What can be Done to Assist these Students?
1.   maintain a structured, daily routine.
2.   make priorities.
3.   create a homework plan. 
4.   section large assignments into manageable chunks.
5.   generate a to do checklists.
6.   coach them on study skills.
7.   teach note-taking skills.
9.   demonstrate test-taking methods.
10. teach memory strategies.
11. offer incentives and positive reinforcement.  
12. use graphic organizers for writing.
13. teach metacognitive skills by thinking through a process aloud. 

Where Can I Get Ready Made Materials?
To learn about these strategies and more, I have created a publication on CD or digital download that offers materials that structure, guide, and support students in the areas of planning, time management, and organization.  This document includes agendas, questionnaires, checklists, and graphic organizers for writing and test preparation.  In addition, advice and materials are presented in the areas of math, reading, memory, motivation, setting priorities and creating incentives programs.  What’s more, the handouts are varied and accommodate learners of all ages from early elementary to college.  Finally, I offer a free sample assessment from the publication, as well as a free video on executive functioning.  Click Here  

Cheers, Erica
Dr.  Erica Warren, Learning Specialist and Educational Therapist

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Using Imaginary Play with Your Child

Recently I’ve been sharing some of the skills involved in filial therapy, including structuring and empathic listening. Today we’ll take a look at how imaginary play helps children learn and grow, and how playing with your child can strongly benefit your relationship.

What is Imaginary Play?

Imaginary play occurs when a child asks you to enact a role in their play, much like a director would ask of an actor in the theater. When a child invites you to take on an imaginary role with them, they are engaging you in a very active process. Whereas empathic listening involves reflections of the child’s feelings from an observational standpoint, imaginary play is all about participation.

There are Several Ways to Take on Such a Role: 
  1. One option is to ask the child what they’d like to see in the role. For example, if the child assigns you the role of teacher, you might ask if you’re a strict teacher or a relaxed teacher.
  2. Another option is to play the role however you feel. In this example, you might start off as a relaxed teacher and then become strict (or introduce another character to the play).
  3. In Filial Therapy, the suggestion is to read the child’s tone and guess what they’re looking for, trusting that they will tell you if you are wrong. For example, you might begin as a teacher giving directions in a neutral tone, and the child may then instruct or direct you to, “Be mean!” or, “Pretend you’re really nice.” 
Why it’s Important to Consider These Factors or Play a Certain Way?

In everyday life, play can be flexible and dynamic, with both parties contributing to the story line. However, if your goal is to better understand and connect with your child’s concerns and issues, you may want to give option 3 a try. When you’re able to play the character the way the child directs, you’ll have a better chance at relating to your child’s needs and helping him or her work through any questions or situations with which they may need help.

How Can Imaginary Play Help Kids?

Imaginary Play allows the child to try out different ways of acting and to take another’s perspective. It allows the child to take risks and within the confines of a safe environment to help develop a sense of self. If you’re able to respond to your child’s wishes for the play, you’ll likely find that your child will look to connect with you as well.

Emily Herber McLean, LPC is a child and family therapist at The Center for Psychological Services. To learn more about her practice, visit www.centerpsych.com.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Parental Leadership: Routines

How is your hectic fall schedule? We all have been back at it for about a month now. Many of you will say it is going well but you are still experiencing a few sticking points to that smooth running family you visualize! To fully settle into a routine takes time and effort. One month is not a time to judge your parenting or your kids. It might, however, be a time to check into what could be tweaked to achieve comfortability with your school schedule.

Here are a few ideas for those sticking points that show up for all of us in our parenting.  See if these can help you settle your family into the fall routine.

Morning Routine: Is someone in your household late, cranky or unable to pull it together in the morning and impacting everyone else? Or is it that the whole group is having their challenges? This set of steps will work with one person or the entire family.

Call a family meeting and:
  •  Get clear on the morning routine that is currently in place. Document that.
  • Where are the challenging or sticking points
  • What alternatives are available to solve these sticking points? (All ideas welcome here – encourage contribution
  • Democratically decide how to proceed. Get buy in from all. All may not agree, but buy in means you will adhere to the plan being decided on.
  • Document new plan and post it. Be clear with with expectations of new plan
                        Use uncomplicated, well defined easy steps
                        Consider a chart with pictures for youngsters

                      Calendar or time line for older kids
  • Everyone must agree to new plan for a period of two weeks at which time a family meeting will be called to review.

What if your family issues are homework based?
  • Provide, as parents, a structured schedule for homework each day of the week. What fits best into your family’s routine taking into account after school activities and evening routine? 
  •  Set expectations for starting, engaging in and completing homework.
  • Understand what parts of homework require parental support. Schedule time for that homework on parent calendar so time is focused, regular and uninterrupted.
  • Provide energy boosting snacks.

How about bedtime routines?  This can be the hardest to change. Lazy days of summer don’t require early and wide-awake mornings to be at your best…summer and school routines can be very different. However, if this transition isn’t made, the late nights and not getting to school on time can wreak havoc on the young learning mind.
  • Parents need to be clear on their expectations as it relates to bedtimes.

  • Decide what needs to be part of your families bedtime routine

  • Written expectations should be step by step with no ambiguity. Example:

Brush teeth, read one book together for younger kids

No electronic devices after 10pm. for older kids

  • Post the routine and talk about it in a family meeting

  • Monitor the routine and insist on it being carried out. A solid evening routine is the best way to endure a good morning!

Most of these suggestions involve discussion and follow through. Parents, make sure you are giving yourself the time to do these pieces well. With out a strong set up and strong follow through none of your routines will be adhered to. Parental Leadership is a valuable tool in making routines really work!

As always, reach out with your questions!              


Monday, October 6, 2014

Setting Limits for Cell Phone Use

Sometimes the best advice comes from another parent...
One of the biggest issues that parents in my office report confronting is how to set guidelines and rules for their children’s use of technology, particularly cell phones.  It is always my suggestion that agreements and limitations regarding the phone begin as soon as any  device is introduced.  One parent, Doug from Boston, went the extra mile.  He was generous in sharing a contract he and his wife used with his daughter with another parent, and she in turn with me.  With Doug's permission, I now pass it along to you.  If you haven’t yet given your child a phone, I encourage you to use this contract or one like it.  If you are farther along in this process, you can adapt it to your current circumstance and start anew.
May the limit setting begin...
Dear Olivia,
Happy Birthday! You are now the proud owner of an iPhone.  You are a good & responsible 11 year old girl and you deserve this gift. But with the acceptance of this present comes rules and regulations. Please read through the following contract. I hope that you understand it is my job to raise you into a well rounded, healthy young woman that can function in the world and coexist with technology, not be ruled by it. Failure to comply with the following list will result in termination of your iPhone ownership.
We love you madly & look forward to sharing several million text messages with you in the days to come.
1. It is our phone. We bought it. We pay for it. We are loaning it to you. Arent we the greatest?
2. We will always know the password.
3. If it rings, answer it. It is a phone. Say hello, use your manners. Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads Momor Dad. Not ever.
4. Hand the phone to one of your parents promptly at 9:00pm every school night & every weekend night. It will be shut off for the night and turned on again at 7:30am. If you would not make a call to someones land line, wherein their parents may answer first, then do not call or text. Listen to those instincts and respect other families like we would like to be respected.
5. It does not go to school with you. Have a conversation with the people you text in person. Its a life skill. *Half days, field trips and after school activities will require special consideration.
6. If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Mow a lawn, babysit, stash some birthday money. It will happen, you should be prepared.
7. Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first or stay out of the crossfire.
8. Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.
9. Do not text, email, or say anything to someone that you would not say out loud with their parents in the room. Censor yourself.
10. Search the web for information you would openly share with me. If you have a question about anything, ask a person preferably me or your father.
11. Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public. Especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being. You are not a rude person; do not allow the iPhone to change that.
12. Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone elses private parts. Dont laugh. Someday you will be tempted to do this despite your high intelligence. It is risky and could ruin your teenage/college/adult life. It is always a bad idea. Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you. And it is hard to make anything of this magnitude disappear including a bad reputation.
13. Dont take a zillion pictures and videos. There is no need to document everything. Live your experiences. They will be stored in your memory for eternity.
14. Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision. It is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it. Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO fear of missing out.
15. Download music that is new or classic or different than the millions of your peers that listen to the same exact stuff. Your generation has access to music like never before in history. Take advantage of that gift. Expand your horizons.
16. Play a game with words or puzzles or brain teasers every now and then.
17. Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Talk to a stranger. Wonder without googling.
18. You will mess up. I will take away your phone. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. You & us, we are always learning. We are on your team. We are in this together.  It is my hope that you can agree to these terms. Most of the lessons listed here do not just apply to the iPhone, but to life. You are growing up in a fast and ever changing world. It is exciting and enticing. Keep it simple every chance you get. Trust your powerful mind and giant heart above any machine. I love you. I hope you enjoy your awesome new iPhone. Happy Birthday!

Mom and Dad
Be well,

Jennifer Jackson Holden, Psy.D. is managing director of the Paoli, Pennsylvania office of the Center for Psychological Services. www.centerpsych.com drjenniferholden@gmail.com