New Year’s Resolutions: A Family Affair

 New Year’s resolutions are a family affair. Adults can help children to understand the meaning of resolutions, and how and why we make them.

The following New Year tips are from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). They are offered to help parents encourage their children to make healthy resolutions.

resolutionsResolutions for Preschoolers

  • I will clean up my toys and put them where they belong.
  • I will brush my teeth twice a day, and wash my hands after going to the bathroom and before eating.
  • I won’t tease dogs or other pets, even friendly ones. I will avoid being bitten by keeping my fingers and face away from their mouths.
  • I will talk with my parent or a trusted adult when I need help, or  I am scared.
  • I will be nice to other kids who need a friend or look sad or lonely.

Resolutions for Kids, 5 to 12 years old

  • I will drink reduced-fat milk and water every day, and drink soda and fruit drinks only at special times.
  • I will put on sunscreen before I go outdoors on bright, sunny days. I will try to stay in the shade whenever possible, and wear a hat and sunglasses, especially when I’m playing sports.
  • I will try to find a sport (like basketball or soccer) or an activity (like playing tag, jumping rope, dancing or riding my bike) that I like and do it at least three times a week!
  • I will always wear a helmet when riding a bike.
  • I will wear my seat belt every time I get into a car. I’ll sit in the back seat and use a booster seat until I am tall enough to use a lap/shoulder seat belt.
  • I’ll be friendly to kids who may have a hard time making friends.I’ll asking them to join activities such as sports or games.
  • I will never encourage or even watch bullying, and will join with others in telling bullies to stop.
  • I’ll never give out private information such as my name, home address, school name or telephone number on the Internet. Also, I’ll never send a picture of myself to someone I chat with on the computer.
  • I will try to talk with my parent or a trusted adult when I have a problem or feel stressed.
  • I promise to follow our household rules for video games and internet use.

Resolutions for Kids, 13 years old and older

  • I will try to eat two servings of fruit and two servings of vegetables every day. I will drink sodas only at special times.
  • I will take care of my body through physical activity and eating the right types and amounts of foods.
  • I will choose non-violent television shows and video games.  I will spend only one to two hours each day, at the most on these activities.  I promise to follow our household rules for video games and internet use.
  • I will help out in my community by  giving some of my time to help others.  I will work with community groups or join a group that helps people in need.
  • When I feel angry or stressed out, I will take a break and find helpful ways to deal with the stress.  I will exercise, read, write in a journal or talk about my problem with a parent or friend.
  • When faced with a difficult decision, I will talk about my choices with an adult whom I can trust.
  • When I notice my friends are struggling, being bullied or making risky choices, I will talk with a trusted adult and attempt to find a way that I can help them.
  • I will be careful about whom I choose to date.  I will always treat the other person with respect and not force them to do something or use violence. I will expect to be treated the same way in return.
  • I will resist peer pressure to try tobacco, cigarettes, drugs or alcohol.
  • I agree not to use a cellphone or text message while driving and to always use a seat belt.

 

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What Parents Need to Know About Homeschooling a Child with Special Needs: A Look at the Pros and Cons

For 35 years of my career, I worked with children with special needs. So, when Jackie Nunes wrote me and asked if I would accept an article about homeschooling a child with special needs I readily accepted. Jackie is a former pediatric nurse and now a full-time home school educator. She is one of the founding members of wondermoms.org  

photo of Homeschooling a Child with Special Needs

What Parents Need to Know About Homeschooling a Child with Special Needs: A Look at the Pros and Cons

The single best thing about homeschooling my child with special needs has been the high fives. When you have a child with disabilities, you have to throw the typical milestone timetables out the window. Very few skills – walking, talking, potty training, learning letters – come on schedule. Things that are easy for most children take much more perseverance and hard work for our kids.  However, few feelings can match the surge of pride when they finally master a new skill. In our house, we celebrate every victory, large or small, with a round of high fives.

Homeschooling wasn’t an easy decision for my family. It was a financial sacrifice. Then there were all the worries about whether I had the knowledge, resources, and temperament to do it well. There were a lot of pros and cons to consider. At the end of the day, we knew it was the right decision for us.

If you’re thinking about taking the homeschooling plunge, it’s important to weigh both the benefits and disadvantages. Here are some of the things we learned along the way.

Advantages of Homeschooling a Child with Special Needs  

The benefits of homeschooling are about flexibility, and being able to teach in a way that’s best for your child.

  • Learn at your child’s speed: With homeschooling, you set the pace. You can go as quickly or as slowly as your child needs. If your child has strengths in a particular area, you can move through it faster. At the same time, if your child has trouble with something, take your time and try different ways to make it click. If your child is obsessed with trains or dinosaurs, try connecting it to that. If music or movement helps, go for it.
  • You control the learning environment: Kids with special needs are often either sensory seekers or sensory avoiders. When setting up your home school environment, you can tailor it to your child’s needs and preferences. Make your classroom soothing and quiet, or incorporate bright colors, an indoor swing, and a miniature trampoline. Create a space that works for both of you.
  • Social interaction is monitored: While it takes a bit more effort to schedule get-togethers, parents who home school can keep a much closer eye on their child’s social experiences. Homeschooling reduces the risk of your child getting bullied.
  • Learn around a schedule: Homeschooling may also be beneficial if your child has many different doctor or therapy appointments on their schedule. Parents who home school are able to fit lessons in between appointments or move schooling to another part of the day. If your child is having a hard time with something, you can take breaks to prevent frustration.
  • School is less overwhelming: Children who are home schooled don’t have to deal with the everyday stresses of traditional school. They can focus much more on their learning. Public schools bring a plethora of sounds, sights, and smells. Pair those with having to deal with throngs of fellow students and anyone would start to get stressed. Being able to better control your child’s learning environment helps your child learn without distractions.
  • Kids learn constantly: With all of their quirks and differences, kids with special needs can be especially tricky to “figure out.” Teachers are heroes, but they are often overworked and underpaid with a room full of kids to educate. A teacher may not have time to find just the right way to introduce a concept so he understands. This is one area where parents have a huge advantage. Parents know how their children learn best. They often find “teachable moments” outside of the regular school day to connect schoolwork to life.

Disadvantages of Homeschooling a Child with Special Needs

You  will find that in addition to the advantages of homeschooling a child with special needs, there are some drawbacks. Here are some to consider:

  • Not enough structure: The biggest advantage of homeschooling can also be one of the biggest drawbacks: flexibility. Many kids thrive on routines, and that can be especially true for children with special needs. It’s hard to recreate the rhythms of a traditional school routine when you teach at home. Some kids find it hard to distinguish between learning time and play time. To provide some structure to your days, write a loose schedule and keep it hung up where your child can see it. It’s also a good idea to dedicate one room in your home to school only. Once your child is in that room, no matter the time of day, she knows that it’s time to learn.
  • No nurse: Being home schooled means your child won’t have a nurse to go to if they get hurt or aren’t feeling well. Because of this, many parents, who home school, elect to learn basic first aid skills. They become CPR certified before starting to teach their kids at home.
  • Less socialization: Children who are home schooled often don’t socialize with kids their age as much as they would in a traditional schooling environment. To combat this, parents often network with the homeschooling community in their city to meet other homeschoolers and their kids.
  • Finding outside professionals: Public school districts usually employ various counselors and therapists to see children who have diagnosed learning difficulties. Depending on where you live, your child may loose access to these professionals if you withdraw from the school system. Parents need to research what their rights ar,e and other ways to get assistance for their child.
  • Access to art and sports facilities: Public schools usually have accessible facilities including gymnasiums, art rooms, music rooms, science labs, auditoriums, media centers, and sports fields. Those are hard to replicate at home. However, you can sign your child up for after-school activities. He can join a youth sports league, or participate in Special Olympics program. You can keep a well-stocked craft cupboard at home.

Is Homeschooling Right for Your Child?

homeschooling your special needs child

As with anything, homeschooling has both benefits and drawbacks. When you have all the information about the pros and cons, you will be able to make the best decision for your family.

Before homeschooling, the hours my daughter spent in school were largely a mystery. Besides the odd note from the teacher, I had almost no insight into how she spent her days. I worried about everything. How much attention was she getting?  Was she was eating her lunch? Was anyone bullying her?

Homeschooling isn’t easy and it may not be right for everyone. But I don’t wonder about my daughter’s days anymore. Now I know. And it’s pretty awesome.

 

 

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Keeping Foodborne Illness Out of the Lunchbox

You can reduce the chance of what the USDA calls a serious public health threat…foodborne illness in the lunchbox. 

lunchboxHere are six top tips for keeping foods safe in a lunchbox.

  1. If you’re packing meats, eggs, yogurt or other perishable food, use at least two freezer packs. Harmful bacteria grow rapidly between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Juice boxes can provide another option: freeze some juice boxes overnight to use with at least one freezer pack. The frozen juice boxes will thaw by lunchtime.
  3. If there’s a refrigerator at school or work, find a space for your lunch. Remove the lid or open the bag so the cold air can circulate better.
  4. Use an insulated, soft-sided lunchbox or bag instead of a paper bag. Perishable food can spoil more quickly in a paper bag.
  5. For a hot lunch like soup, use an insulated container. Make sure the container remains tightly closed until lunchtime.
  6. And finally, throw out all leftover food, used packaging and paper bags.

Medline Plus, a service of the National Institutes of Health, reminds us that not all illness comes from the food. It can come from a lunchbox that is not properly cleaned, or from the area where the lunch was prepared.

Please remember that:

  • A dirty lunchbox may contain bacteria that can make a youngster  sick.
  • A lunchbox picks up a lot of grime in a day.
  • Kids don’t always wash their hands before handling their lunchboxes and food.
  • It’s a good idea to put a small bottle of antibacterial gel with a tight-fitting lid in your child’s lunchbox. Your child can use the gel when there isn’t a chance to wash with soap and water before eating lunch.
  • Kids should avoid setting down their food on the table. Include a paper towel, a piece of wax paper, or even a small fabric place mat in your child’s lunchbox that can be washed at home to help keep food off surfaces that may have been used by a number of youth and adults.

When packing a lunchbox:

  • Start with clean hands, a clean work surface and a clean lunchbox.
  • Disinfect kitchen surfaces, such as kitchen equipment and refrigerator handles, regularly.
  • Also clean cutting boards, knives, dish-drying towels and sponges or dish cloths daily.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables before packing them.

 

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School Time Health and Safety Tips

It’s that time again; it’s back to school time.  It’s time for all the prep and practical planning needed to launch the school year for your children. The American Academy of Pediatrics shares about health and safety tips at the start of the school year. 

picture of a grade school

MAKING THE FIRST DAY of SCHOOL EASIER

  • Remind your child that there are probably a lot of students who are uneasy. Assure your child that the teachers will make an extra effort to make sure everyone feels as comfortable as possible.
  • Point out the positive aspects of starting school.  She’ll see old friends and meet new ones. Refresh her positive memories about previous years. Especially when she returned home, after the first day, with high spirits because she had a good time.
  • Find another child in the neighborhood with whom your student can walk to school or ride with on the bus.
  • If it is a new school for your child, attend available orientations and tour the school before the first day.
  • If needed, drive your child (or walk with her) to school and pick her up on the first day.

BACKPACK SAFETY

  • Choose a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back.
  • Pack light. Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back. The backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of your child’s body weight.
  • Always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles.
  • If your school allows, consider a rolling backpack. This type of backpack may be a good choice for students who must tote a heavy load. Remember that rolling backpacks still must be carried up stairs. They may be difficult to roll in snow, and they may not fit in some lockers.

TRAVELING TO AND FROM SCHOOL

Review these basic rules with your student:

SCHOOL BUS

  • Children should board and exit the bus at locations that provide safe access to the bus or the school building.
  • Remind your child to wait for the bus to stop before approaching it from the curb.
  • Make sure your child walks where she can see the bus driver. This means the driver will be able to see her, too.
  • Remind your student to look both ways to see that no other traffic is coming before crossing the street. 
  • Your child should not move around on the bus.
  • If your child’s school bus has lap/shoulder seat belts, make sure your child uses one at all times.

CAR

  • All passengers should wear a seat belt and/or an age and size appropriate car safety seat or booster seat.
  • Your child should ride in a car safety seat with a harness as long as possible. Then she needs to ride in a belt-positioning booster seat. Your child is ready for a booster seat when: She has reached the top weight or height allowed for her seat, her shoulders are above the top harness slots, or her ears have reached the top of the seat. 
  • Your child should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s seat belt fits properly. This is usually when the child reaches about 4′ 9″ in height and is between 8 to 12 years of age. This means that the child is tall enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with her legs bent at the knees. Her feet should be hanging down and the shoulder belt lies across the middle of the chest and shoulder. The shoulder belt should not be near the neck or throat. The lap belt needs to be low and snug across the thighs, and not the stomach.
  • All children younger than 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of vehicles. If you must drive more children than can fit in the rear seat, move the front-seat passenger’s seat as far back as possible. Then have the child ride in a booster seat if the seat belts do not fit properly without it.
  • Remember that many crashes occur while novice teen drivers are going to and from school. You should require seat belt use, and limit the number of teen passengers. Do not allow eating, drinking, cell phone conversations,  texting or other mobile device use to prevent driver distraction. Limit nighttime driving and driving in inclement weather. Familiarize yourself with your state’s graduated driver’s license law. Consider using a parent-teen driver agreement to facilitate the early driving learning process. For a sample parent-teen driver agreement, see www.healthychildren.org/teendriver 

BIKE

  • Always wear a bicycle helmet, no matter how short or long the ride.
  • Ride on the right, in the same direction as auto traffic.
  • Use appropriate hand signals.
  • Respect traffic lights and stop signs.
  • Wear bright-colored clothing to increase visibility. White or light-colored clothing and reflective gear is especially important after dark.
  • Know the “rules of the road.”

WALKING TO SCHOOL

  • Make sure your child’s walk to school is a safe route with well-trained adult crossing guards at every intersection.
  • Identify other children in the neighborhood with whom your child can walk to school.  In neighborhoods with higher levels of traffic, consider “walking school bus,” in which an adult accompanies a group of neighborhood children walking to school.
  • Be realistic about your child’s pedestrian skills. Small children are impulsive and less cautious around traffic. Consider whether or not your child is ready to walk to school without adult supervision.
  • If your children are walking to a new school, walk with them until you are sure they know the 
  • Bright-colored clothing will make your child more visible to drivers.

EATING DURING THE SCHOOL DAY

  • Most schools regularly send schedules of cafeteria menus home and have them posted on the school’s website. So, you can plan on packing lunch on the days when the main course is one your child prefers not to eat.
  • Look into what is offered in school vending machines. Vending machines should stock healthy choices such as fresh fruit, water and 100 percent fruit juice.  Learn about your child’s school wellness policy and get involved in school groups to put it into effect.
  • Each 12-ounce soft drink contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories. Drinking just one can of soda a day increases a child’s risk of obesity by 60%. Choose healthier options to send in your child’s lunch.

BULLYING

Bullying or cyberbullying is when one child picks on another child repeatedly. Bullying can be physical, verbal, or social. It can happen at school, on the playground, on the school bus, in the neighborhood. It can also occur over the Internet, or through mobile devices like cell phones.

When Your Child Is Bullied

  • Help your child learn how to respond by teaching your child how to:
    1. Look the bully in the eye.
    2. Stand tall and stay calm in a difficult situation.
    3. Walk away.
  • Teach your child how to say in a firm voice.
    1. “I don’t like what you are doing.”
    2. “Please do NOT talk to me like that.”
    3. “Why would you say that?”
  • Teach your child when and how to ask a trusted adult for help.
  • Encourage your child to make friends with other children.
  • Support activities that interest your child.
  • Alert school officials to the problems and work with them on solutions.
  • Make sure an adult who knows about the bullying can watch out for your child’s safety and well-being when you cannot be there.
  • Monitor your child’s social media or texting interactions so you can identify problems before they get out of hand.

When Your Child Is the Bully

  • Be sure your child knows that bullying is never OK.
  • Set firm and consistent limits on your child’s aggressive behavior.
  • Be a positive role model. Show children they can get what they want without teasing, threatening or hurting someone.
  • Use effective, non-physical discipline, such as loss of privileges.
  • Develop practical solutions with the school principal, teachers, counselors, and parents of the children your child has bullied.

When Your Child Is a Bystander

  • Tell your child not to cheer on or even quietly watch bullying.
  • Encourage your child to tell a trusted adult about the bullying.
  • Help your child support other children who may be bullied.
  • Encourage your child to include children being bullied in activities.
  • Encourage your child to join with others in telling bullies to stop.


BEFORE AND AFTER SCHOOL CHILD CARE

  • During early and middle childhood, youngsters need supervision. A responsible adult should be available to get them ready and off to school in the morning and supervise them after school until you return home from work.
  • If a family member will care for your child, communicate the need to follow consistent rules set by the parent regarding discipline and homework.
  • Children approaching adolescence (11- and 12-year-olds) should not come home to an empty house in the afternoon unless they show unusual maturity for their age.
  • If alternate adult supervision is not available, parents should make special efforts to supervise their children from a distance. Children should have a set time when they are expected to arrive at home and should check in with a neighbor or with a parent by telephone.
  • If you choose a commercial after-school program, inquire about the training of the staff. There should be a high staff-to-child ratio, and the rooms and the playground should be safe.

DEVELOPING GOOD HOMEWORK AND STUDY HABITS

  • Create an environment that is conducive to doing homework. Children need a consistent work space in their bedroom or another part of the home that is quiet, without distractions, and promotes study.
  • Schedule ample time for homework.
  • Establish a household rule that the TV and other electronic distractions stay off during homework time.
  • Supervise computer and Internet use.
  • Be available to answer questions and offer assistance, but never do a child’s homework for her.
  • Take steps to help alleviate eye fatigue, neck fatigue and brain fatigue while studying. It may be helpful to close the books for a few minutes, stretch, and take a break periodically.
  • When your child is struggling with a particular subject, and you aren’t able to help,  atutor can be a good solution. Talk it over with your child’s teacher first.
  • Some children need help organizing their homework.  Checklists, timers, and parental supervision can help overcome homework problems.
  • If your child is having difficulty focusing on or completing homework, discuss this with your child’s teacher, or school counselor.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics

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Digital Eye Strain is Often the Result of Over Exposure to Digital Devices

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), parents severely underestimate the time eyetheir children spend on digital devices. What follows is a press release issued by AOA that speaks to the need to monitor your child’s use of digital devices and suggests the guidelines to help prevent or reduce eye and vision problems associated with digital eye strain.

AOA Survey Report on Digital Eye Strain

ST. LOUIS — An AOA survey reports that 83 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 17 estimate they use an electronic device for three or more hours each day. However, a separate AOA survey of parents revealed that only 40 percent of parents believe their children use an electronic device for that same amount of time. Eye doctors are concerned that this significant disparity may indicate that parents are more likely to overlook warning signs and symptoms associated with vision problems due to technology use, such as digital eye strain.

Symptoms of Digital Eye Strain

Eighty percent of children surveyed report experiencing burning, itchy or tired eyes after using electronic devices for long periods of time. These are all symptoms of digital eye strain, a temporary vision condition caused by prolonged use of technology. Additional symptoms may include headaches, fatigue, loss of focus, blurred vision, double vision or head and neck pain.

Optometrists are also growing increasingly concerned about the kinds of light everyday electronic devices give off – high-energy, short-wavelength blue and violet light – and how those rays might affect and even age the eyes. Today’s smartphones, tablets, LED monitors and even flat screen TVs all give off light in this range, as do cool-light compact fluorescent bulbs. Early research shows that overexposure to blue light could contribute to eye strain and discomfort and may lead to serious conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which can cause blindness.

Protecting Your Eyes Against Digital Eye Strain

When it comes to protecting eyes and vision from digital eye strain, taking frequent visual breaks is important. Children should make sure they practice the 20-20-20 rule: when using technology or doing near work, take a 20-second break, every 20 minutes and view something 20 feet away. According to the survey, nearly one-third (32 percent) of children go a full hour using technology before they take a visual break instead of every 20 minutes as recommended.

Additionally, children who normally do not require the use of eyeglasses may benefit from glasses prescribed specifically for intermediate distance for computer use. And children who already wear glasses may find their current prescription does not provide optimal vision for viewing a computer screen. An eye doctor can provide recommendations for each individual patient.

AOA Recommendations

The AOA recommends every child have an eye exam by an optometrist soon after 6 months of age and before age 3. Children now have the benefit of yearly comprehensive eye exams thanks to the Pediatric Essential Health Benefit in the Affordable Care Act, through age 18.

“Parents should know that vision screenings miss too many children who should be referred to an optometrist for an eye examination to correct vision,” added Dr. Roberts. “Eye exams performed by an eye doctor are the only way to diagnose eye and vision diseases and disorders in children. Undiagnosed vision problems can impair learning and can cause vision loss and other issues that significantly impact a child’s quality of life.”

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