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  • Promote Understanding for Autism Awareness Month in April

    Autism Awareness

    pic by heptingting

    Autism Awareness Week runs from 27 March -2 April and kicks off Autism Awareness Month. This April, help to spread awareness, understanding and respect for those who suffer from autism and Asperger’s syndromes. Autism is an increasingly prevalent part of our society and promoting understanding will help people on the spectrum to feel accepted and supported.

    What is the Autism Spectrum?

    Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a range of complex behaviors that may leave those afflicted with an inability to fit in socially. They may also experience trouble communicating effectively and display repetitive patterns of behavior. The autism spectrum is very wide and people may experience symptoms which range from mild to severe in nature.

    ASD occurs in all ethnic groups, age groups and socioeconomic groups and experts estimate that 1 in every 88 children ages 8 and under have ASD. Studies show that boys are 4 times more likely to have ASD than girls.

    Because children with ASD sometimes have trouble fitting in, they may find it difficult to thrive in a traditional school environment and are often the victims of bullying and negativity from children and adults. Spreading awareness will help to alleviate some of the difficulties that ASD children and their families have to deal with. Promoting understanding will create communities where children with ASD are supported and given the best chance to develop and fulfill their incredible potential.

    Why should I Support Autism Awareness Month?

    Many children with ASD need special support for learning and growing and their families need counseling and assistance. Special needs tutoring and education can often come at a high price, but it’s crucial to allow children with ASD to excel and grow to their full potential.

    Children with ASD may also need medication or other therapies that families struggle to afford. Support one of the many Autism Awareness activities in your area that will raise funds for children and their families in April.

    If you are not able to participate in these activities, you can do your bit for Autism Awareness month by educating yourself and your family about ASD and how to best help those who have it. You and your family can also volunteer at one of the many organizations that support families and children with ASD.

    Take the Twizzler Challenge

    You did the ice bucket challenge, now try the Twizzler challenge to support Autism Awareness Month. Post a video of you and someone else eating licorice Lady-and-the-Tramp style. Then, nominate someone else to do the same!

    Post to social media using the hastag’s #TwizzlerChallenge #AutismCanada.

    Resources for families

    Want to know more about ASD and help to educate your kids? Here are some resources to help you.

    Contact the Autism Society in Canada here.

    Find additional Canadian Resources here:

    http://www.autismspeaks.ca/

    http://autismcanada.org/

    http://www.thestar.com/news/world/autismproject.html

     

    Contact the Autism Society in the US here.

    Find additional resources here:

    http://usofautism.com/the-film/the-resources-available/

    http://www.autismsupportnetwork.com/resources/autism-grants-united-states

    http://www.usautism.org/

     

    Contact the Autism Society in the UK here.

    Find additional resources here:

    http://www.resourcesforautism.org.uk/

  • What’s your Family Emergency Plan?

    Whats your Family Emergency Plan

    pic by the US Army

    Hurricane season is almost upon us and we turn our thoughts to emergency family plans. Each family should have a plan that covers all kinds of disasters like fires, floods, evacuations and injury. Knowing what they have to do in an emergency situation can make the difference between life and death for your family members. Here are some essential elements that each family should think about:

    Your emergency kit: Pack an emergency bag that has spare clothing, blankets, food, water, pet food, flashlights and a first aid kit as well as any prescription medication family members require. Store this kit in an accessible place in the home and ensure that everyone knows where to locate it.

    Important documents: These should all be kept in a water-proof bag or box near your emergency kit so you can grab them in a hurry. Include travel documents and some emergency cash.

    Emergency evacuation plan: Discuss an exit strategy for your family for every room in your home so that, no matter where they are, they can quickly exit through a window or door. You should also have an emergency meet-up point that is near your home, school and workplaces. Children should know how to navigate to this point from your home and from their school. Practice this emergency plan with your family from time to time.

    Emergency phone numbers: Ensure that emergency numbers, numbers of friends and family members and the numbers of the local authorities are all programed into their cell phones so that they are easily accessible during an emergency. Post essential numbers near your land line in case cell phones are lost or damaged.

    Fire hazards: Always ensue that your fire alarms and fire extinguishers are in good working order. Make sure that your family members know where the fire extinguishers are and how to use them.

    Emergency procedures: Discuss with you family what to do in the event of a fire, flood, earthquake or storm so that they can follow protocol should they be alone when disaster strikes.

    Shelters: Know where your local shelters, clinics and hospitals are and how to navigate to these locations; you may not have access to the internet during a disaster situation and can’t rely on your GPS to direct you to the nearest care facility. Most shelters do not take pets so find a pet-friendly hotel near you in case you have to evacuate your home.

    First aid: It’s a great idea to get all your family members to participate in a first aid course. You should also regularly refresh this knowledge so that you are always prepared for every eventuality. These are great life skills for your family members to have.

    Having an emergency plan will help each family member to cope better in the event of an injury or emergency situation, so help to keep your family safe by implementing your own safety measures today.

  • ADHD or Just Energetic? How to Tell the Difference

    ADHD or just energetic

    Pic by DFAT

    The instances of ADHD rise with each passing year and the latest figures put it at around 12% of the student population. Sadly, many students go undiagnosed as their symptoms are difficult to differentiate from normal rambunctious childhood behavior. When children are diagnosed, diet and exercise changes and an alteration in teaching techniques can help them to blossom. Here are some basic guidelines to look out for if you suspect that your child may have ADHD.

    ADHD Symptoms

    Most ADHD symptoms are concentrated on the inability to focus and hyperactivity. Since most children go through phases where they exhibit these kinds of behaviors, it can be very difficult for parents to discern ADHD symptoms from normal boisterous behavior. Some of the most prominent symptoms include:

    • Difficulty concentrating for more than a few minutes
    • Inability to listen or follow instructions
    • Forgetfulness
    • Disorganization
    • Constantly losing things
    • Lack of attention to detail which can show up as mistakes in schoolwork
    • Having trouble sitting down
    • Constant fidgeting
    • Being very talkative and loud
    • Interrupting often
    • Having trouble waiting their turn

    When should I be Worried?

    If your child displays these behaviors from time to time, you probably don’t have to worry too much. All children will exhibit some or all of these behaviors at different phases in their lives. What you want to look out for is a consistent inability to focus, children who are struggling academically and children who are not fitting in socially because of the symptoms outlined above. When these symptoms start to impact their development both academically and socially, it’s time to act.

    Speak with your child’s teachers and tutors; they are a great source of information and usually have tons of experience for you to draw on. Some children may display symptoms at home, but behave very differently at school. If this is the case, you know the behavior is triggered by circumstances rather than ADHD.

    What’s the Next Step?

    Speak with your pediatrician first. There is no medical test for ADHD, but they can give you pointers on what to monitor and observe. If your doctor thinks that your child’s behavior is negatively affecting their development, they will refer you to a specialist.

    A specialist will test your child and observe their behavior before making a diagnoses. Your child must display six or more of the symptoms of hyperactive behavior to be diagnosed as ADHD.

    You can discuss further actions with your specialist which can include everything from diet and exercise alterations to medication. There are many different ways to deal with the symptoms of ADHD and you should explore all your options before selecting a coping strategy that best suits you and your family.

  • Can every Child Be Great at Math?

    Rogelio

    A recent study by the Child Development Institute found that just about everyone can be good at math. While natural talent does give some students the edge, math is about practice and attitude and that means that patience and determination are the key to better math grades.

    Attitude is everything

    If your child is saying; “I’m not good at math” then they probably won’t be. Studies show that even gender plays a role in negative math attitudes. From the University of Chicago’s Psychology Department; “Girls tend to have more negative math attitudes, including gender stereotypes, anxieties, and self-concepts, than boys. These attitudes play a critical role in math performance, math course-taking, and the pursuit of math-related career paths.”

    Another study found that parents and teachers had different expectations for boys than they did for girls and this led to some girls performing below their capabilities in math.

    A study on the influence of parental attitudes towards math also showed that the parent’s perceptions of their own math abilities had a very strong influence on their children’s math performance: “Children’s math attitudes form as a result of environmental influences, especially those that occur in interactions with parents and teachers. For example, parents’ and teachers’ expectations for children’s success in math are biased by their own gender stereotypes.” (Eccles et al. 1990).

    A study by Patricia Linehan for Purdue University found that students fell into two attitude camps. Some believed that when they practiced math and persevered they would eventually succeed while others believed that they were terrible at math and no amount of effort would help them to improve.

    The latter attitude is called entity orientation and is largely influenced by parents’ and siblings’ attitude to math. This attitude all but guarantees failure for the unfortunate student who just doesn’t put in the requisite effort as they feel like it’s not worth it.

    Practice makes Perfect

    Studies show that practice and a positive attitude is all that is needed for an improvement in math ability. While changing your family’s attitude towards math is the first step to better grades, you still need to help your child to catch up and keep up.

    Start with the foundational building blocks. Each new grade builds on the math taught in previous years and teachers simply do not have the time to go back and reteach foundational math. That means with each passing year, your student is dropping further behind.

    A personalized math tutor will be able to find the missing building blocks and fill them in. Be sure to pick a tutor who fosters positive attitudes and teaches the essential executive functions like time management and study skills so that your child has the tools they need to succeed at math.

    Ensure that you aren’t fostering those negative attitudes by saying that you aren’t good at math as your child may feel they inherited your math acumen. Stay positive, be encouraging and supportive and remember that practice makes perfect.

  • Should Your Child Stay Back a Grade?

    Should Your Child Stay Back a Grade

    pic by Wellspring Community School

    Bad report cards, behavioral issues or difficulty fitting in may all contribute to your child getting a recommendation to repeat a grade. If students are struggling, pressuring them to move to a higher grade may exacerbate the problem. Academic issues, problems outside of school or a lack of maturity may encourage educators to hold students back on the assumption that this will allow the child to grow and catch up. Unfortunately, studies do not back up the colloquial belief that repeating grades is beneficial to students.

    When students aren’t coping with the workload or with social responsibilities, it seems logical to give them some extra time to catch up. However, psychological studies conducted on students who repeated a grade suggest that this may have damaging long-term effects on them both socially and academically.

    What the Studies Show

    A study by the National Association of School Psychologists showed that students who were held back performed worse than those who had the same grades and were allowed to graduate. Repeating a grade does initiate an improvement in grades in the first year, but the improvement is short-lived and peters out after a year or two.

    Holmes and Matthews (1984) reviewed 44 studies that looked at the long-term effects of grade retention and found that promoted students had higher grades, better personal adjustment and more positive attitudes toward school than students who had been kept back a grade.

    Long-term studies show that students who were kept back perform worse than students with similar grades who were moved forward in reading, math and language skills with reading suffering the most. Not only do these students experience deteriorating academic performances, they also have higher instances of social and behavioral issues which increase in frequency through adolescence and result in a much higher dropout rate.

    According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 2006, students who drop out are five times more likely to have repeated a grade.

    What you can do to Help

    If your student is experiencing social or academic loads that are beyond their capabilities, moving them forward into the next grade unassisted may only exacerbate the problem. Enlist help in dealing with these issues so that your child has a support network outside of the school system.

    For academic assistance, turn to an in-home private tutor who is able to find the missing building blocks in your child’s knowledge and fill these so they have a great foundation to build on. Ensure that your one-on-one tutor also teaches executive skills; those vital organizational and study skills that give your child the tools they need to succeed.

    Use the summer to help them to catch up and then monitor their progress in the new academic year. Get more involved in your child’s school and form a positive relationship with your teachers. Your teachers are the very best source for advice on how to help your child and provide an academically supportive environment where they can learn and grow.

  • Is Your Child Gifted?

    Is your CHild Gifted

    Pic by Brad Flickinger

    Is your child getting bad grades even though you know they are smart as a whip? Gifted children often underachieve because they have academic needs that just aren’t being met by the conventional education system.

    While gifted children are a well of untapped potential, they are rarely allowed to grow and blossom. The reasons for that is that the education system just isn’t designed to accommodate the gifted. With big classes and limited resources, teachers don’t have the time, and may not have the tools, to deal with gifted students.

    Gifted students come with their own set of challenges both academic and social and they have needs that are rarely met by the classroom environment. What this leads to is boredom on the part of the gifted child who is unchallenged by the pace of the average classroom. Boredom means that they stop paying attention, even when new material is being covered. Boredom also leads to behavioral issues.

    Gifted children are perfectionists and may need more time to complete tasks to their high standards.

    Ironically, gifted children have some of the highest dropout rates as they just can’t cope in a conventional academic setting. The best solution is to have your child tested to see if they are gifted and then to find a school program that provides gifted children with a chance to excel.

    Is your child gifted?

    To ascertain whether your child is gifted, you can have them tested in various institutions. In the US, you can contact the National Association for Gifted Children and in Canada, MENSA offers testing.

    Mother of a gifted student Chandra Melsey discusses some of the challenges that face her daughter Nya; “There are other characteristics of giftedness that for many, including my daughter, are telltale signs – excessive energy, unending curiosity, emotionally advanced, early and superior language skills or a need for perfectionism.”
    Nya’s teacher, Brenda Natt explains the behavioral difficulties and need for perfection that gifted children have: “While their IQs are high, they have behavioral aspects that need special attention and the right teachers with the right understanding to guide them.”

    Underfunded

    Unfortunately many gifted children go untested and endure an academic career in an institution which does not serve their needs. Most schools aren’t geared to test or accommodate gifted children and the lack of funding to help them develop means that most of them slip through the cracks. Most educators and funding are geared towards kids who have learning disabilities or special needs and it’s difficult to garner support for the gifted child.

    Solutions

    If your child is gifted and there is a school that provides a program near you, then your child has a good chance of success. For students who do not have access to special programs, private in-home tutors with experience can really help. Here the tutor can hone their special skills and keep them interested and engaged. At school, speak with teachers about your child’s special talents and how their skills can be accommodated within the classroom.

  • 6 Steps to Better Grades: How you can Help

    6 steps to better grades how you can help

    Pic by r. nial bradshaw

    Bad report card? You need to act quickly. A bad grade is a big warning sign that something isn’t right and the sooner it gets addressed the better. You see, education is a foundational building block system and teachers just don’t have the time to go back and reteach concepts from previous grades. That means when your child is missing fundamental building block knowledge, they fall further behind with each passing grade.

    There is much that you as a parent can do to inspire and support your child in getting the best possible grades they can. Here are a few easy ways in which you can create an environment that supports growth and learning.

    Be supportive

    Having a supportive family who believe in you is the first step to improved academic success. Believe that they will improve and focus on the positive. Help them to set realistic goals and be their most enthusiastic cheerleader.

    Get involved

    Parental involvement is one of the key pillars to student success in academics and in life. Find time to help with homework, help out at school and to get to know their teachers and friends. Speak with their teachers about ways in which you can support their growth at home. Their teachers know what they need and can give great advice on how you can help at home.

    Get a tutor

    Remember what we were saying about building blocks?  An in-home tutor can work with your child to find those missing building blocks in their knowledge and fill in the gaps. Not only can a one-on-one tutor bring your child up to speed, but they can actually help them to move ahead. Ensure that you select a tutor who also teaches executive skills.

    Executive skills are key

    To excel at school, your child needs to have study and organizational skills which are known as executive functions. They have to be organized enough to ensure that homework and assignments are done on time and that they are sufficiently prepared for exams and tests. They also have to prioritize tasks and manage their time effectively to balance school, life and sport. Teaching executive functions will equip your child with the skills they need to succeed.

    Learning styles

    Children don’t all learn in the same way; some are visual learners while others are auditory or kinesthetic learners. Find out which learning styles your child responds to best and then help them to convert information so that they can study smarter, not harder.

    Routine maintenance

    Start a routine. This will help your child to be organized and manage time effectively. Pick a time for homework when your child is rested and ready which means not right after school and not too late at night. Create a quiet environment free of distractions and siblings where your child can do homework in peace. Ensure that they are fed a healthy diet with tons of fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Encourage them to exercise every day and get outside as often as possible.

  • How Sugar Effects Your Child’s Behavior

    How Sugar Effects Your Childs Behavior

    pic by Andy Carter

    While there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to support the idea that sugar leads to hyperactivity in children, there is actually no scientific proof to support this idea. Most parents will tell you that they can see changes in their child’s behavior just after that Easter egg hunt or while trick or treating, but science is yet to back these claims up.

    Studies on hyperactivity and sugar

    While detractors will point out that there have been no conclusive links between sugar and hyperactivity, that isn’t quite the whole picture. You see, when children consume refined sugar, they experience a rise in blood sugar levels which results in cognitive and physiological symptoms that can be mistaken for hyperactivity.

    A study by Yale Researcher Dr. Wesnes discovered that children who consumed large volumes of sugar for breakfast experienced reduced attention spans and were not able to focus on even simple tasks. Another study featured in the Journal of Pediatrics (1995) by William Tamborlane, also of Yale University found that refined sugar caused a spike in glucose load.

    When you consume sugar, your glucose levels spike and then drop sharply and when this happens, your body releases adrenaline to compensate. This adrenaline release occurs in children when their blood sugar levels are much higher and this results in some behavioral changes.

    How soda consumption encourages aggression

    Perhaps the most disturbing studies to date revolve around teens and soda consumption. Several studies were conducted to discover how consuming just one soda a day affected teen behavior.

    A 2011 study from the Injury Prevention journal discovered that when teens drank five sodas a week, they were more likely to engage in aggressive behaviors including damage to property, violence and bullying behavior towards other teens and they were more likely to carry weapons.

    The team carried out a second study and confirmed that even just one soda a day resulted in more aggressive behavior and fighting. Teens with high soda consumption also experienced other effects including anxiety, depression and feelings of hopelessness and suicidal tendencies.

    According to a September 2013, Credit Suisse Research Institute report, as much as 30-40% of healthcare expenditure can be attributed to the consumption of sugar. When refined sugar is consumed in large quantities, children can experience a wide range of adverse effects. If you think your child may be experiencing some of the adverse effects of sugar, cut sugar from their diet for at least a week to see if it results in an improvement.

    You can also consult your pediatrician for professional advice and nutritional guidance. Always read food labels; corn syrup and sugar can be found in many unexpected foods. Stick to fruits, vegetables and whole grains to ensure that your child has a healthy body and a healthy mind.

  • March Break Activities For Kids

    March break activities for kids

    Pic by Tim Pierce

    As March break rolls around you may be disappointed that the weather isn’t nicer. As children have been confined indoors over the winter, they may be just as disappointed as you that their March break will be mostly an indoor affair. But that doesn’t mean it has to be boring! The secret to a happy and successful holiday is having lots of March break activities for your children to do.

    Field trip

    Museums, art galleries, zoos and aquariums usually have specials over holidays that make field trips more affordable for families. Check websites for free days or family pricing. This is a great way to spend a day learning and exploring and it’s an activity that gets you out of the house.

    Holiday cooking class

    This is a great time to teach your children the basics of cooking. Whether you are cooking dinner, baking cookies or making ginger bread mansions, learning to cook is a very valuable educational experience. Get them to read the recipe; not only are they reading, but they are practicing following instructions and reading each step before completing a task which is great practice for future exams and science experiments. Cooking also encourages precision, measurement and experimentation.

    Bedroom Makeover

    This doesn’t have to cost a fortune; you can get kids to paint murals or stencils on the walls or create art for their room. They can make new crafts, furniture, curtains and lampshades for their rooms.

    Make your own Toys!

    There are so many fun ideas for making your own toys. These projects are great because kids have to design their own toys, build them and then they get to play with them. They learn new skills and are entertained for hours. Here is a great guide to seven easy toy DIYs.

    Volunteering

    Local shelters, environmental groups, soup kitchen and other Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) could always use a helping hand. Get your child to volunteer at a charity that resonates with them. It’s a great way to spend your time and a wonderful learning experience.

    Blanket Fort City

    Blanket forts are a great go-to. You can up the ante with packing boxes which can be tuned into castles, ships, spacecraft and whole villages.

    Mad Scientist

    From making their own slime to rock candy, the Science Bob website has great at-home experiments for aspiring scientists. These are fun and messy!

    Play Acting

    Have budding thespians in the house? March break is the perfect time to direct a play replete with set-making sessions, make up and dress up. Rope in some playmates and other mums so that you can take turns hosting rehearsals.

    If you have the time, enroll your children in day camps where they can learn new things and meet new people.

     

  • How to Beat Exam Stress

    How to Beat Exam Stress

    Pic by hackNY

    Exam stress; everyone feels anxious and nervous in the days leading up to exams – we’ve all been there. Trouble is that exam anxiety can have disastrous side effects like lack of sleep, headaches, stomach aches, and an inability to concentrate. This means that you aren’t resting or eating properly and that means you aren’t performing at your peak. Exam anxiety may lead you to fulfill your worst case scenarios.

    Just like a professional athlete trains, eats well and gets plenty of rest before a big game, doing well in school is like training for your brain. That means you need to put in the practice leading up to the exams—leaving things to the last minute will only contribute to your exam stress.

    Next you need to feed your brain. Your brain needs whole grains, protein, fruits and veggies so follow a healthy diet and get tons of exercise; living off gummy bears and energy drinks will mean your blood sugar levels crash right in the middle of the exam. When this happens, your ability to focus and concentrate is impaired as are your higher cognitive functions. Fuel your brain to perform at your peak.

    Here are some of the best exam stress busters:

    Study! I know this is obvious, but being prepared and not leaving everything to the last minute will mean that you feel more confident and will keep those exam blues at bay.

    Be positive: Don’t listen to any of those little voices in your head whispering; “you can’t do it”. If you think that it’s too hard, then it will be. Keep telling yourself you can do it and encourage yourself to try. Congratulate yourself on those things you do well and be your own inner cheerleader.

    Move it! Exercise is one of the best stress relievers and the perfect antidote to all that desk time. Go for a walk, a swim or a run or just have a ten minute dance party to get the juices flowing.

    On exam day:

    Get plenty of sleep the night before. It may seem like a good idea to stay up and study, but the law of diminishing returns means that not getting enough sleep seriously reduces your ability to retain information and deal with stress. You will retain more and perform better if you are well rested.

    Ok, so you already know that you need to start the day with a really great breakfast. A well-balanced healthy meal will help you to focus and do your best.

    Stay hydrated; drink lots of water and go easy on the soda and coffee.

    Leave plenty of time to get to the exam so you aren’t rushing. If your friends are stressing out before the exam, then keep to yourself and listen to that positive inner voice.

    Start with the easy questions first. That will give you the confidence you need to tackle the more challenging ones.

    When the exam is over, have a rest and then go and do something fun; nothing relieves anxiety like a good laugh.