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March 22, 2021 About Us0

Does your child understand personal space? Do their friends? Young children can sometimes be unaware of what personal space is, and why it’s important for interacting with others. We know we need to teach children about personal space if we see them invading others’ personal space, or showing signs of discomfort or stress when their space is invaded. 

 

When we talk to kids about personal space, using a metaphor can help them understand why we need it. For instance, when we see cars on the highway, they are all moving together and yet they never come close enough to touch each other. They each give each other enough space so everyone feels safe. People are the same way!

 

Our Education Specialist, Julianne Bigler, gives some examples of games and props anyone can use to illustrate personal space in an engaging way for kids. 

 

Provide a concrete representation

Use a carpet square, mat, or hula hoop to represent a child’s personal space. Tell them to imagine there is a bubble surrounding their space that only they can be inside. Children can explore the bounds of their space in many different ways. Tell the child to imagine they have a paintbrush in their hand and they are going to paint the inside of their bubble. When they get to “paint” their bubble how they want, this gives them a sense of ownership around it, making them more likely to preserve it.

 

Bring awareness to their body

While inside their personal bubble, have children bring awareness to their bodies by acting out movements that explore high, medium, and low, as well as what their body can do inside their bubble. They can show how high and low they can get, how far their arms reach and legs stretch while remaining inside their bubble. Children can pretend they are plucking a star from the sky, playing a board game, or picking a flower. The song “Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” is a perfect song for this activity. Bring as much fun into this as possible! The more differentiated motor skills they practice, the more control they begin to gain over their body. 

 

Play personal space games

“Shrinking Room” is a game that requires children to adjust their bodies to accommodate for personal space in a changing environment. Children hold hoops and must be careful not to touch anyone else’s hoops while playing. The adult acts as a moveable wall with their arms out to the side. When they take a step forward, there is less space available, and the children must move so that they and their neighbors have enough space. 

A modified “Red Light, Green Light” can also teach personal space. Have one child who will demonstrate their need for personal space stand at one end of the room, and the others stand at the opposite end. One child advances (not running) toward the one who is “it”. The child who is “it” will hold up their hand in a “stop” signal when the child walking toward them gets close enough. To gauge the appropriate amount of space, use a carpet mat, or establish the “arm’s length away” rule. 

Some children may struggle more than others with personal space due to vestibular processing difficulties. The vestibular system helps our bodies detect and interpret movement. Children with a vestibular dysfunction struggle with motor skills and can present as clumsy. These children tend to invade others’ personal space without realizing the discomfort it causes other people. Simply telling a child with these difficulties what they “should” do to respect this space is not effective. Presenting a physical model for them develops the vestibular awareness they need. The following exercise can bring awareness to personal space by experiencing their own space being invaded. 

 

While the child stands inside a small hoop they are holding, have someone else come inside their hoop. Note how the child responds. Do they back up, shy away, or in other ways establish personal space? This exercise gives them a good metric of the space to give others. If they are uncomfortable when their space is invaded, this is a perfect time to help them advocate for themselves by requesting space or backing away. 

 

Using a social story is a tool many children find helpful. A personal story should outline what personal space is, what good personal space looks like, social cues for a child to look for to determine whether or not they are personal space invaders, and what to do when they need personal space.

 

One aspect these activities do not address when first teaching personal space, is that our bubbles fluctuate. After a child has mastered their space with concrete objects, teach them how our abstract bubbles shrink and expand depending on who we’re with. Talk with your child or student about the differences in how close we get with our family, friends, acquaintances, and community members. Role playing can make this a fun to practice while in a safe space. When implementing this task, take turns playing different people the child may encounter any given day. 

 

This visual from Social Skilled Kids illustrates how personal space changes depending on who we are with. This is a helpful visual to hang in a classroom for children to reference when they need.

Watch Julianne’s talk on personal space here!


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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!


MISSION STATEMENT

Our mission is to provide a multisensory educational care platform for students, while providing support and coaching for their families. We use a team approach to provide efficient and effective services, helping special needs children to thrive.

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