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June 7, 2021 Sensory Regulation0

 

When we experience environmental stress, it is important for us to regulate the amount of arousal we experience to match the environment. This process involves sensory regulation strategies. In this blog, we want to show you how you can use these strategies to help your child. 

While adults may be generally well-adjusted in regulating their arousal to fit their desire, children cannot always do this with ease. They may not know what is causing them stress, or be able to tell us about it. Sensory dysregulation in a child can manifest as hyperactivity, lack of focus, irritability, difficulty sleeping, or acting out. These non-preferred behaviors are stressful for parents, but they may be a sign of something beyond “kids being kids”. They may be a sign of some type of sensory dysregulation. Dr. Kevin Johnson, a pediatric and family chiropractor of the Center for Human Potential, enlightens causes of dysregulation and what parents can do about it. 

Causes

The top of the spine controls the autonomic nervous system. Dysregulation can be caused by misalignment of vertebrae at top of neck, causing an interference with the nervous system. This interference, called a subluxation, is caused by stress, whether it’s physical, chemical, or mental. 

Once a subluxation occurs, the body lives in a constant state of stress response. A prolonged state of stress response is taxing on the body, and can lead to long-term problems. Proper alignment of the spine removes the interference, allowing for free flowing sensory regulation. Getting an adjustment to the upper neck can return our body to its natural resting, healing state it can function in long-term. Some children display a decrease in hyperactivity and greater ability to focus after a vertebral alignment. 

Sensory overload

Sensory dysregulation can lead to overstimulation and eventually overwhelm. Prolonged overstimulation is stressful even for adults, whereas it can be especially troubling for children who do not know how to communicate their needs or advocate for themselves. 

Overstimulation leads to many problematic behaviors and conditions: anxiety, irritability, difficulty sleeping or focusing, hypersensitivity to the neck and head, and/or hypersensitivity to noise. Have you noticed any of these issues in your child.

Accommodations 

If you’re a parent, it’s important to keep in mind realistic expectations for your child. Between school and the therapies they need, some children have maxed out schedules. The busier your child is, the more important predictability is: create a visual schedule for your child so they know what to expect out of their day. Reduce physical strain on the eyes by breaking up reading into short periods, and limiting blue light exposure, particularly after zoom calls and before bed. 

Sensory overload is even more imminent during distance learning. Maintaining calm and well-being takes a parent’s intuition of what their child is capable of given the expectations placed on them. 

Watch Dr. Kevin’s full video interview here!

For more information about Dr. Kevin’s work, please visit The Center for Health and Human Potential.


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May 3, 2021 Social/ Emotional0

 

Hey parents, how many times have you gone through this? Your children are playing a game together and they get into a disagreement. The situation starts at a level 2 and expands into a level 10. Arguing and crying ensue, and they all walk away hurt, disgruntled, or angry. If you’re familiar with this, you’ve probably been concerned about how you can train your children to experience their emotions and handle them in a healthy way. So how do we use proactive parenting here? We want to give you three tips to teach your child emotional awareness and regulation. 

Time to role model! 

It’s no secret, but maybe a good reminder, that your child exhibits what they see modeled. This includes what they watch on TV and social media, how they see their friends behave, as well as any adult in their life–especially you. They mimic your every move, even the things you think they don’t see (your facial expressions, tone, emotional temperature). Children sense their parents’ emotions and respond with similar emotions. When they see an appropriate response, it will help them with their own. 

When playing with your child, demonstrate healthy techniques for emotional wellness, such as verbalizing what you’re feeling in a given situation (e.g. “Oh no! I was working on ___ and it got ruined! I feel disappointed!”), taking deep breaths, or even verbalizing that you need a break–and then returning to solve it later. These exercises are great to intentionally practice in front of your child at play, and they’re just as important to practice when the rubber hits the road with real stress. Nothing is more powerful to your child’s learning than watching you handle a real life stressor with emotional maturity. 

Be proactive. 

Preparing for the future can give children the confidence they need to tackle new situations. When your child feels equipped for conflicts, they are much more likely to exhibit strength and poise when a problem arises. Play a game with your child where you discuss how to respond to different hypothetical scenarios. What is an appropriate emotion to feel, how strongly, and what action would they take? You can write down these scenarios on pieces of paper and draw them out of a bowl, or even create a workbook of them. These scenarios may be things like, “Your friend borrowed your bike and returned it scratched” or “Your brother says you can’t play with him.” 

This is a great time to bring up “size of the problem” with your child: how big is a problem, and how big should my reaction be? Identifying the size of the problem when it arises will help your child assess what an appropriate course of action would be. 

Practice calming exercises. 

You can and should practice these calming exercises for yourself as well as with your children. Seeing that this is something we must all do no matter our age normalizes them, rather than making them seem like something we’re lording over them or using as a “consequence.” Demonstrate breathwork with your child. Following a guided breathwork regularly can even be an activity you do together to bond and set as an example of wellness. Play relaxing music in a quiet space when your child feels tense. Allowing this time to calm and settle high emotions before dealing with them can prevent explosive emotions and miscommunication when we feel emotionally overwhelmed. 

Are you curious about what “emotional temperature” is? Download this parent activity

 


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April 26, 2021 Social/ Emotional0

 

Last week we explored how parents can help children develop healthy social communication skills with their peers. Our Parent Representative, Pam Garrity, gives parents three tips on how to tackle bad habits in social interactions, and teach children healthy and assertive strategies for getting along with others.

So what are “social skills”? What does a healthily socialized child look like? Let’s look at some skills children need to learn to thrive with others:

  • Accepting differences
  • Asking for help
  • Conversation skills
  • Complimenting others
  • Disagreeing graciously
  • Encouraging others
  • Following directions
  • Active listening
  • Participating equally
  • Conflict resolution
  • Sharing
  • Staying on task
  • Taking turns
  • Taking risks
  • Adjusting voice volume
  • Personal space (of others and themselves)
  • Patience
  • Handling disappointment

 

Your child will face any number of challenges in their childhood that present opportunities for them to develop these skills. As parents, we often have a natural tendency to jump in to solve problems as they arise–especially when our child comes to us for help! But are we disempowering them when we do that? 

Our Parent Representative, Pam Garrity, provides three tips for parents to empower their children with the tools they need to deal with the social dilemmas they inevitably will face. How many times has your child felt frustration when playing with their friends, then had a meltdown because they didn’t know how to deal with the situation? What is the best way to respond as a parent? When is the best time to step in? And how much? Try these strategies the next time this issue arises.

  1. Fight the natural tendency to swoop in and solve the problem for your child. “Fixing” the problem may not ultimately be in a child’s best interest, as it teaches them to disengage from a problem rather than thinking creatively to solve it. 

It may be counterintuitive, but we want children to experience challenges that require them to make natural mistakes while they problem-solve. This is going to be hard! It’s going to get messy (quite literally!). Encourage your child to hash out issues with their peers on their own, try new techniques, and make mistakes. 

2.  Break the bad patterns. For example, according to a parent our Parent Rep spoke with, their child had their space invaded by another child in a sandbox at a park. The parent took initiative during the situation, yet spoke for their child and scolded the other. When these incidents arise, pause. Allow the space for your child to attempt a solution. Be open to feedback. If your child comes to you seeking a solution, encourage communication, but allow the children to come to a solution. 

Make sure to get everyone on the same page! Discuss the autonomy you would like your child to develop with other adults that may take care of them–parents, grandparents, nannies, etc. Even communicating with other parents on the playground is important. Suggest working together, such as, “Help us practice some role-modeling,” when opportunities arise. 

3.  Role-model! This can be done any time, with almost any adults, while your child is watching. The truth is, adults are role-modeling to children every second of the day. Whether or not you want your children to emulate what you do, that is up to you. Children will imitate the behavior and attitudes of the adults they are surrounded by, for better or worse. We must apply conscious effort to model the skills we want to see exhibited in our own children. 

Download this interactive Communication Skills Builder Checklist to assess your child’s individual strengths!

Do you have more questions about your child’s social needs, and what you can do as a parent to help? Fill out this form to reach our Parent Representative.


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April 12, 2021 Regression0

 

Last week we launched our first virtual Parent Huddle! These live virtual meetings bring parents together to bring out in the open the concerns they have for their children’s development and progress, and empower and educate parents through community. 

Each week we focus our discussion on one of our five pillars of support: regression, attention, social, emotional, and sensory. Last week we began with regression. So, what is regression when it comes to education?

Academic regression refers to learning loss in children: skills, milestones, or concepts they had previously mastered they now struggle with or cannot do at all. Regression typically occurs after a hiatus in learning, such as at the end of summer break. However, a nationwide academic regression (and beyond) has occurred due to school closures. Virtual learning has proven to be ineffective for most students, with many disengaging, dropping out, or simply not retaining information. Moreover, struggling young readers tend to remain struggling readers without intervention and support. (Read more about statistics about the effects of distance learning on our blog here.)

You may be able to clearly see learning loss in your child when you look at their handwriting, math skills, level of independence in schoolwork, reading fluency and comprehension, vocabulary, and even social skills and self-care skills. Most students are experiencing some amount of decline. Our Director of Programs, Katerina Violante, noted some tell-tale signs of regression in literacy for parents to catch: rereading or skipping words, erring on words they know, guessing based on a few letters, or mixing up words that look similar. (Guessing and mixing up similar-looking words is appropriate up until about second grade. However, if your child is making these mistakes frequently, or more than they used to, they may have regressed.)

What areas have you noticed don’t seem the same in your child since a year ago, or even several months ago? So, what do parents do when all we’re told to do is “wait till things go back to normal”? 

Getting a baseline with an evaluation for where your child is currently functioning will give you an in-depth understanding of what their needs are. Your child’s regression may be visible to you as a parent, but are you aware of the underlying functions that are affecting their performance? Triton’s Multisensory Evaluations give parents a snapshot of exactly where their child is functioning according to age, grade, and percentile, when it comes to language processing, orthographic processing and literacy, and even non-academic skills such as social-emotional and sensory processing. 

The best part is, Triton puts parents at the center of evaluations and instruction. We involve parents in their child’s instructional goals and coach them in how to apply the same concepts and tasks at home. 

In the meantime, even after getting support for your child, what if virtual learning isn’t working in your home? Our Parent Representative, Pam Garrity, suggests these modifications in your child’s day. 

  • Create a school schedule with your child. Set aside a time during the weekend to plan the week ahead, then post it in your child’s view. This not only holds them accountable, but gives them some agency over their time and themselves. 
  • Make weekdays to simulate a school environment during school hours. Your child should have a separate learning space away from distractions (that they use only when they are “in school”) and organized. 
  • Motivate your child in creative ways! For example, create a velcro board and put their favorite toy at the end. They can earn “tokens” on their velcro board while looking forward to the toy when they finish. 
  • What works at school should work at home. Talk to your child’s teacher about strategies they may have used in the classroom that your child enjoyed. Can you make those conducive at home? 

Follow us on Instagram and Facebook to stay in the loop for our Parent Huddles every Thursday at 12:30pm. This week we will be discussing attention. Whether your child has an ADHD diagnosis, or simply struggles to pay attention to a virtual class (can we blame them?), you are invited to the next Huddle! We’ll see you there on Instagram live!

 


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April 7, 2021 About UsRegression0

 

Triton exists to serve families and students where they have the greatest needs. Triton began this journey in the midst of a pandemic last year–a time when parents were desperate for school support. Now, over a year after school closures, select schools are just starting to return to classes in person, with many continuing distance learning. This is why Triton focuses on educational therapy that is one-on-one, and is designed to target a student’s needs and challenges as an individual. 

Why education therapy?

Learning Loss

The duration of distance learning has greatly impacted students’ academic growth and social-emotional development. According to a report on high school students in Los Angeles, 40,000 of them are at risk of not graduating this year, 6,000 of them this year alone. “In middle school, about a third of students in the district are currently on grade level in reading and math. Some of the worst learning loss was found in the early grades, where reading skills declined the most in kindergarten and first grade compared to the 2019-20 school year” (Yahoo! News). Great Public Schools Now describes the losses L.A.’s youngest students are experiencing according to annual assessments.

According to early literacy assessment results from the beginning of the 2020-21 academic year, 49% of students in grades K-5 were on track in early reading skills, compared to 59% at the be- ginning of the 2019-20 academic year, just before the pandemic. When K-5 students were tested again in the middle of the 2020-21 academic year, results remained stagnant with 49% on track. Students in kindergarten and first grade suffered the biggest learning losses, with the percentage of students not on track increasing by 13- 20%. Literacy skills in those early grades are critical for students to learn how to read. Without additional support, there is a 90% chance that a struggling reader in first grade will remain a struggling reader.

Strengthening sensory cognitive skills

Triton offers the intervention struggling readers need, and we offer a multisensory approach to instruction that typical classrooms do not incorporate. When it comes to teaching reading, the average student is expected to learn to read using phonics and memorization. For a typical student, this may be sufficient for literacy; yet it is taught with the assumption that the underlying sensory cognitive skills that support literacy are stable. Orthographic processing and phonological awareness are two key skills essential for literacy. For students who have weaknesses in these areas, reading will be a struggle until they are addressed. With Triton’s approach, students work one-on-one with instructors to strengthen these underlying functions, allowing literacy to become possible. 

Literacy, however, is only the beginning of learning. Comprehension and critical thinking can present challenges for students even if they are strong readers. This is because understanding what you language relies on a different skill than reading words. Concept imagery is the ability to hold a mental image or picture of an object or idea. This is an essential skill to understanding what you read and even how you use and interpret spoken language. Without strong concept imagery, a student will rely on memorizing the words they read, rather than picturing it in their mind’s eye. Memorization without imagery will not sustain understanding. 

What does Triton’s education therapy look like?

Education therapy is not tutoring. Traditional tutors focus on academics and typically act as a second teacher to help a child complete work already assigned to them from school. Educational therapists use a broader approach. This illustration from Understood explains, “If your child has dyscalculia and math anxiety, a tutor might practice math problems over and over. An educational therapist, on the other hand, might see that your child struggles with number sense. She might teach your child strategies for recognizing basic number facts, or suggest accommodations. She might also teach your child coping skills for anxiety.” Triton’s education therapy focuses on providing students with the tools they currently lack so that they can become more independent in school and life. 

Prior to instruction, every student is assessed with a multisensory evaluation that determines where their current skills lie in areas of language comprehension, phonics, literacy and comprehension. Based on their performance, students receive specialized instruction tailored to their needs. Their education plan can focus on everything from literacy to social emotional skills to language acquisition. Triton’s instructors work one on one with each student to strengthen their sensory cognitive skills through imagery techniques. These techniques develop a student’s mental acuity in picturing letters, words, and concepts. Read more about our multisensory instruction here

Triton’s multisensory instruction is founded on the principle that imagery is the key to learning. Without intensive instruction, students who fall behind rarely catch up on their own. It’s no secret that performance in school is not merely a matter of willpower. Students who are disengaged or completely lost in a virtual setting can’t rely on a prayer. Triton’s in-person educational intervention is designed to help each student perform to their potential in an environment they are excited about. Reach out to our Parent Representative here today. 

 


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March 16, 2021 Social/ Emotional0

 

Mindfulness is a word we hear often. We may associate it with relieving stress, finding rest in our busy lives, or practicing presence in the midst a demanding schedule. How many of us picture it as a practice for children? Yoga instructor, Ellie Polsky, knows the importance of mindfulness practices for people of all ages. In Bloom Yoga 4 Kids, Ellie teaches children and teens mindfulness and emotional intelligence practices to implement into their everyday lives. Beginning these practices at a young age is key to maintaining a healthy, balanced mind throughout our lives. 

Through mindfulness practices–yoga, breathing exercises, creative expression–we release emotions that build up inside of us. For so many children and teens, finding a healthy way to release stress is not something that comes naturally. Stress often manifests as overreactions, withdrawing, talking back, emotional outbursts, and many other ways that leave everyone involved feeling defeated. 

Ellie focuses on using calisthenics and breathing to bring awareness to our body. In stress, we are often consumed with our emotional experience and lose our awareness of our body. This can lead to emotional takeover, or what we may explain as, “I just wasn’t thinking clearly.” Practicing aligning our mind to our body (even when we’re not especially emotional) brings us back to a state of emotional clarity and balance. Ellie explains, “As we stretch and breathe with the stretch, we focus on the breath. We get out of our heads and into our bodies. In this way, our bodies, minds, and spirits come into alignment.”

A couple yoga poses children can try at almost any time are Child’s Pose and Rock Pose.

Child’s Pose

From a kneeling position, plant your hands to the Earth making a tabletop with your back, and your hands and knees as the legs of the table. Touch your big toes together making a “V” shape with your legs. Move your hips backwards toward your toes then reach your hands away from your shoulders keeping them on the ground. Now touch your forehead to the ground; and breathe. 

Rock Pose 

Bring your arms back like you’re a rock on the ground. Sit on your heels, pressing on the buttocks nerves. Keep the spine straight, and take some nice breaths feeling yourself melt into the ground.

Ellie recommends the following breathing exercise a child can do any time they feel stressed. 

“Maybe you’re taking a test and you need to relax and breathe it out in your chair. Bringing your feet to the ground, sitting up tall, put one hand to your heart and one hand to your belly. As you take a breath in, count to five at whatever pace you’d like, making sure your chest is above your belly. Count again as you breathe out. Doing those a few times shifts your awareness out of your head and into your body. It opens up the heaviness that you may feel in your chest, and flows the movement from your chest to your belly.”

Mindfulness practices go far beyond yoga. Ellie teaches children tools in the practice of yoga that can be utilized in everyday life. Here are some practices that parents can teach children in everyday tasks:

Meal time: What are five tastes or textures you can identify while eating? Sweet, spicy, salty, squishy? What does it smell like? What does it feel like on the tongue?

Taking a walk: Take breaks throughout the day by taking a walk. Look for objects with certain attributes while walking to increase awareness of your surroundings (e.g. five things that are green). Try stopping and smelling plants, and expressing gratitude for the things around you. 

Mindfulness involves more than one practice. Bloom Yoga 4 Kids incorporates journaling, art, and dance as a conduit for emotional balance. Using these art forms as daily practices for the simple purpose of emotional release–rather than a skill they must improve–contributes to a child’s emotional health. Help them find a practice that inspires them, so that each day it will be something they return to with enthusiasm. 


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One of the biggest concerns parents have had for their children the past year is regression, or learning loss. Regression shows up in all sorts of ways depending on the child, their age, and their learning needs. Parents have seen it manifest in academic, social-emotional, verbal, behavioral areas, and more. “National data from McKinsey & Company suggests that on average, students lost the equivalent of three months of learning in math and 1.5 months of learning in reading going into the academic year.” (WMTW8News). 

Besides losing skills they had once mastered, completing or even attempting tasks is more of a battle with their child, many parents report. School closures have affected more than just learning. Anxiety is becoming a regular experience in school-aged children. 

This regression is happening across all levels of abilities. However, it is particularly concerning for students with special needs. Schools are still held to the same standards mandated in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as before closures, yet they are struggling to conform to them. 

“The difficulties of transitioning individualized special education academic and behavioral services to online and hybrid formats have been challenging for teachers and school administrators since the onset of the pandemic — not only because of the potential for regression of students’ skills, but also because of the vulnerability of districts to be sued or otherwise held accountable for the potential violation of students’ rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act even as they navigate never-before-seen situations of educating students during a global pandemic.” (K12Dive). 

Pam Garrity, Parent Representative and Community Liaison for Triton Support Services, addresses three main areas of concern parents report. 

Impact of virtual learning – Keeping a child challenged and on grade level continues to present the greatest struggle for parents. They want them mastering new skills each school year but this past year has been at a stand still. In fact, many students with IEPs have not received the accommodations legally due them. A class action lawsuit in California is now underway to demand that schools provide the same accommodations a student’s IEP requires, regardless of students being at home. “Under the settlement, it is understood parents and students can immediately demand services in their child’s IEP be implemented. Students can immediately demand compensatory services for regression and file lawsuit against the school district if they fail to provide compensatory services or failed to provide services in the students’ IEPs.” (Newswise). 

Even typically developing students show the need for supplemental educational support in addition to their school day to keep them on track. Triton can target your child’s areas of needs with a multidisciplinary evaluation. Triton’s evaluations show where a child’s needs lie, and puts a plan into action in addressing those needs. 

If you want specific coaching on how you can help your child at home, sign up for our free parent activities here

Socialization with peers – The lack of socialization with their peers during virtual learning impacts a child’s emotional well-being, and ultimately their relationships and performance in school. Children are not being exposed to the outings they used to on a regular basis. Everyday experiences that keep life dynamic like going to the grocery store, library, mall, and family outings, are conspicuously missing. Missing out on exercise and social opportunities at playgrounds and other social gathering places for kids (e.g. Chuck E. Cheese) leave parents with few options to give their children. 

Encourage and help your child reach out to friends and family via phone or video chats. Write cards or letters to friends and family together whom they cannot see in person. Parents and teachers can promote greater interaction in the classroom by playing games even if we’re not together in person. Talk with your child’s teacher about boosting social interaction in class!

Lack of motivation – Children’s motivation to stay on task is not as strong as it was when they attended school in person. Without the regular changes in the day, monotony can decrease morale. 

Some parents have found that creating a routine boosts motivation and productivity. You can create a visual schedule together and hang it somewhere for them to see on a daily basis. This should include regular activities such as lunchtime, recess, and breaks between subjects. This will reassure them when they are on task and they more easily hold themselves accountable. This offers them a sense of control over their day, and empowers them to stay on track.

For younger kids, you can use pictures instead of words. Build consistency by following the schedule each day. Parents have noted that their child does much better when they know what is expected of them each day.

If you want direction in identifying what areas your child needs support with most right now, take this 2-minute quiz

Stay tuned this week for resources for parents! You will not want to miss Pam Garitty’s full interview on parent concerns from parents just like you. If you want to hear from other parents who know exactly what this is like, and what we can do about it, Triton is offering a virtual parent group with open discussion on regression. Coming soon!


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Are you familiar with this Life Lesson: Put on your own oxygen before helping others?

Even though that makes sense, as parents, we have a tendency to prioritize our children’s needs above our own. We must be mindful about attending to our individual needs. 

Here are some questions to ask (yes/no): 

Do you allow for your emotions as they arise? 

Do you model self-regulation for your children? 

Do you give yourself as much compassion as you give your children?

Social-emotional health is an interplay between our relationship with ourselves and subsequently to those around us. When gauging your personal social-emotional health, rate these questions (on a scale of 1-5): 

How is your relationship with yourself? 

How do you talk to yourself? 

Do you regularly dedicate time for yourself? 

The reason that your responses to these questions are so important is because our internal relationship with ourselves directly influences how we relate to everyone around us, from our most intimate to most formal relations. In short, how you connect with yourself is how you connect with others. It’s easy to remind ourselves of what we “should” do, but how do we do it? This is easy to talk about when we’re in a resting state, much harder to do in an aroused state. The first place to start is in a clear space of non-judgment. 

Emotions, neither good nor bad, are merely functions of the brain, related in one way or another to our survival and well-being. (Watch this video for a neural explanation of big emotions.)

Forming a habit of observing the emotions we have on a daily basis can help us take proactive steps in attending to our needs in a healthy way. Marriage and Family Therapist, Kristin Green, depicts emotions as waves: we don’t always expect them, they can knock us flat on our face, and perhaps most importantly, they are impermanent. Emotions, like other sensations we experience, ebb and flow. So what do we do when another potentially dangerous one builds?

Let’s think about this question right now, “What are your feelings telling you about your needs?” When I feel ____, what I need is ____. (For an in-depth look at communicating needs, see Marshall Rosenberg’s book on Nonviolent Communication.) This “stop and check” practice puts overwhelming emotions on pause, to look deeper into what they are trying to say. Checking in on yourself throughout the day, even when no emotions are readily present, keeps us in tune with ourselves and our intentions, and out of the “trance” of daily checklists and pressures. 

Green recommends a simple practice anyone can practice at any time or place. When you realize you’re in a state of overwhelm, have been disconnected from your body, or feel you’re “going through the motions”, connecting with your breath is a practical tool to use. For a guided practice on connecting with your breath, watch for Kristin’s full interview later this week. Click here for more reading on breathwork. 

Green reminds all of us, “When we are addressing our unmet needs. Our relationships shift because we are taking care of ourselves first.” For parents, this is doubly important because of how our children will observe our practices and internalize our responses to them and the world. “When we model what taking care of yourself looks like, they have an opportunity to do the same.” 

Click here to watch Kristin’s full video.

 

 


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Motivating desired behavior in your child may not be a cinch, but having a method is the first place to begin. You can motivate your child with consistent structure and personalized, age-appropriate motivation that is tailored to their needs. Whether it’s homework, chores, or daily self-care, children may get distracted, discouraged, or refuse to finish tasks without a system to assist them. 

BCBA, Xylene Contaoi, of Xcite Steps, outlines three tried and true systems for motivation:

 

Visual Schedule

A visual schedule shows a child what their day will consist of, when to expect which tasks, and what the expectations are. Without knowing what to expect, kids can lose focus or get discouraged. Tailor the schedule to their age and ability: for older kids or adolescents, the schedule can be a simple list with times (or they can create their own!). For youngers and/or children who cannot read, create a board with pictures that represents each task. Post the schedule within the child’s view in their workspace. 

Check out visual schedule examples here

 

Sensory Breaks

Getting enough sensory breaks is crucial for kids! Consistently leaving one’s space and getting some exercise can avoid meltdowns and/or task refusal. Let your child decide what type of break they would like to work for: dancing, hugs and squeezes, bouncing on a medicine ball, or even running/walking laps around the house or block. The most important thing is that your child finds it motivating. 

Setting boundaries for breaks may be necessary if your child struggles with transitions, or bringing their energy back to “work time”. Establish boundaries before beginning (e.g. five laps, two songs, no throwing or screaming indoors, etc.). Setting a visual timer is a good way to help children keep time limits in mind.  

Need some ideas? Here are 100 sensory break options for kids. 

 

Token Boards

Some children work fine with a visual schedule. Others may need extra motivation, such as a token board, to complete their tasks. Token boards work by showing a child what they need to earn in order to receive a reward or a break. A token board consists of tokens a child earns for completing tasks or giving responses. 

For younger kiddos who need a lot of reinforcement, a five-token board is a good place to start. When to give a token is up to the discretion of the facilitator, depending on the child’s abilities. Tokens can be given more liberally on days they need extra motivation, or more sparingly on days when a child works more independently. 

Tailor the board to the child’s interests! It can be as simple or fancy as a child likes, but created in such a way that has a positive association for the child. Read more about implementing token boards here. And, check out these pre-made token boards

These motivation systems are as dynamic as the children they serve. They can and should be created and modified according to the child’s needs. The possibilities are endless!

If you’re still not seeing the results you want, reach out for help. San Diego’s Xcite Steps Behavior and Therapy Center specializes in ABA and family therapy. Xcite’s BCBAs are trained professionals passionate about giving your child the program that works best for them. 

Watch Xylene’s full interview here.

 


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How often do you experience tantrums, meltdowns, and refusals in your home? If you’ve experienced more of them during at-home learning than before, so have most parents! The unexpected challenges kids have faced the past year contributes to behaviors, and can lead to an all-around stressful home environment. If you’re in this boat, finding proactive methods will be key in creating balance. Let’s talk about managing behaviors in your home!

What kids need most amidst the ambiguity of distance learning is exactly what they may be lacking: structure. There must  be a clear delineation between what is “school” and what is “home”. Set up a table that is for school alone. Partitions around the table can aid attention. You may even try putting tape on the ground for where school starts and home “ends”. Create this space to resemble school as much as possible. 

Visual cues can work wonders. Create a schedule for your child (visual or written, depending on their age), or use a token board to motivate them throughout their school day. Having different devices for different uses, and setting parent controls on school devices, helps a child differentiate between work and recreation. This will make work time more productive. 

Along with structure comes consistency. Without it, the structures we set won’t mean much. Establish a clear routine that a child can count on every day, as close to their previous school routine as possible. The unknown breeds anxiety, and can lead to behaviors. When a child knows what’s expected of them will help them feel calm and work with a new environment. When we give children a clear and consistent routine that they can count on, we avoid the drama that comes with lack of certainty. 

Behavior analyst, Rima Frederickson, advises parents to provide the same accommodations to children at home as they had in school (e.g. seating, fidgets, movement breaks, etc.) Children are at risk of regressing without the structure and social interaction that school provided in the past. Rima urges parents to help their child maintain the things they enjoyed doing in the past, even if it’s a modified version. Communication may look different these days, but it doesn’t have to stop! For example, instead of waiting to see a close friend, children can send letters or projects they’ve created in the mail. 

Set aside time to teach children the play skills they will need when they return to their peers. This can be practicing eye contact, conversation tactics, or social awareness. Role-playing with these activities with a parent gives your child a safe place to practice for when they will be able to apply them again. 

If you’ve established consistent structure within your home that resembles a typical social and academic setting for your child, and you still have concerns, seeking help from a professional is a healthy option! Gateway Learning Group has trained professionals who can establish a behavior plan for your child, and give you the results you’re looking for. 

Watch Rima’s full interview here.

 


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