Removing Roadblocks to Build Avenues: Learning Disabilities Awareness Month

Removing Roadblocks to Build Avenues

October is Learning Disabilities Awareness Month. This important topic was first observed during the Reagan administration in 1985, and it has continued to bring awareness for the 15 million Americans that live with learning disabilities today. Awareness for disabilities such as processing disorders and dyslexia is important for everyone–not just the individuals that live with these disabilities. The National Education Association explains that, “one of the biggest challenges faced by individuals with learning disabilities is the overall lack of acceptance by society.” This lack of acceptance and understanding is precisely why Learning Disabilities Awareness Month is so important. Education is key in terms of building peer relationships, promoting advocacy, and supporting families.

Here are 6 things that may surprise you about learning disabilities:

  1. While the “nature vs. nurture” conversation is constantly debated, there is no proof that environmental factors are tied to learning disabilities. There is also no evidence to support that learning disabilities are linked to low socioeconomic status. The truth is, learning disabilities span across all races, ethnicities, and income levels.
  2. For an unknown reason, boys make up two-thirds of the students receiving special education services in the public school system. There is no explanation for the apparent gender distinction.
  3. Most children with learning disabilities have average or above-average IQs. Contrary to popular belief, learning disabilities are not linked to deficits in intelligence, motivation, or emotional development. There is no “effort factor” present in students with learning disabilities–they simply require a different set of strategies to learn and retain information.
  4. A child with a family history of academic difficulties could be at a higher risk for a learning disability. Certain learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, are known to run in families.
  5. Learning disabilities cannot be medically cured. These disabilities do not go away; however, they can certainly be managed or treated. A factor in successful management is to recognize how to capitalize on strengths and circumvent areas of weakness.
  6. Experts believe that around 5% of the population struggles with a learning disability. With such a prevalent statistic, it is likely that a learning disability hits close to home in some area of a person’s life.

The truth is, learning disabilities do not determine someone’s capabilities. It is important to educate ourselves about these various educational difficulties so that we may better accommodate our students and children. A learning disability is not a roadblock. We simply must continue to create alternate avenues for learning so that everyone’s unique needs are met.

 

Listen Up: Auditory Processing

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It is Audio Appreciation Month! September reminds us to be grateful for an ability that some of us may rarely think about: the ability to hear. Of course, we hear sounds all the time. We are constantly receiving inputs from the environment, but the ability to absorb and process sound is actually quite complex. The process involves the outer, middle, and inner ear structures, as well as hair cells and the auditory nerve that transports information to the brain.

Additionally, a surprising fact about hearing is that, “the human ear is a fully developed part of our bodies at birth and responds to sounds that are very faint as well as sounds that are very loud. Even before birth, infants respond to sound” (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association). While in utero, babies are able to hear sounds from within and outside of the womb. The auditory pathways, however, are still immature at this stage. This means that, while the baby is able to hear, processing and perceptible abilities have not fully developed.  

The magical aspect of the development of the auditory system is its plasticity, especially when considering our constantly changing environments and experiences. The auditory system is regularly adapting to process the various inputs we receive at any given moment.

But what happens if there is a glitch in the system? Since the auditory system stretches way beyond simply hearing, the ripple effect could greatly impact other areas of development.

Since hearing is a large aspect of human communication, obstacles related to hearing impairments may impact a child’s educational development. Specific areas of concern in the classroom for children with hearing impairments include:

  • mastering that subjects of grammar, spelling and vocabulary
  • taking notes while listening to lectures
  • participating in classroom discussions
  • watching educational videos
  • presenting oral reports

The complicated aspect is that a hearing issue may not be related to the actual hearing process at all. Instead, the auditory system may be impacted by a processing impairment. Auditory processing disorder, also called a central auditory processing disorder, is sometimes difficult to identify. Symptoms of APD are strikingly similar to symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). APD and ADHD can coexist; however, the slight distinctions between the two disorders are sometimes overlooked, resulting in misdiagnosis. Since symptoms of ADHD and APD are so similar, it is imperative that a child’s condition be thoroughly explored to ensure the best possible plan for treatment and therapy.

While APDs are not necessarily preventable, noise-induced hearing loss is. In order to prevent future hearing loss, it is important to monitor your child’s use of electronics and earbuds. Volume is not the only culprit; prolonged listening can harm hearing as well. Some safety tips include monitoring the length of your listening, monitoring the volume at which you are listening (no more than 60% of the maximum volume), standing away from loud speakers at concerts and sporting events or wear earplugs, and taking frequent short breaks from loud venues.

You should, of course, always listen to your body as well. If you notice that you begin straining to hear conversations, phone calls, or television shows, you may be suffering from minor hearing loss. Likewise, if you struggle to distinguish background noise from other sounds or conversations, you may also be experiencing hearing loss. Be kind to your ears by turning the volume down and getting regular hearing checks.

 

Tips for Middle Schoolers…Transition to Success

Tips for Middle Schoolers…Transition to Success

  1. Organization is one of the most important and necessary skills for being successful in Middle School.  Here are some tips:
    • Post your schedule inside your locker.
    • Color code your notebooks and folders for faster, easier class transitions. Example: Red notebook & folder for Math
    • Keep a small, magnetic dry erase board inside your locker to quickly write down after each class what books to bring home. Example: You leave math and know you have homework–write on your board math HW.
    • ALWAYS use your agenda.  You should be writing down any homework or upcoming tests/quizzes daily in your agenda. Do this before you leave your classroom before the bell.
    • A 3-ring zipper binder is a useful tool to hold pens, pencils, notebook paper and your agenda so that you are ready for every class. Note: D shaped binder rings tend to be more durable.
    • Get to know your locker combination and practice how to use the lock.  
  2. It is also important to communicate with your teacher.  If you do not understand something, wait for the appropriate time and ASK.  
  3. Do not spend too much time socializing in between classes.  Five minutes goes really quickly and tardies can add up fast. Several tardies can get you a detention. Use your lunch and after school to catch up with friends.
  4. Enjoy your time and get involved with clubs and other activities that are available.  Listen to what the teachers have to say and remember that being respectful can get you far.

Welcome to Middle School…Your Parent Guide

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  1. Check your child’s agenda book daily, and check not only homework, but completed homework on a regular basis.
  2. Keep lines of communication with school open. Don’t wait for school to contact you. Take the initiative.
  3. Get to know the teachers, keep in contact, and understand–regardless of what your child comes home and tells you–there is always another side to the story.
  4. Teach your child that every teacher is different, just as co-workers and bosses will be in life.
  5. Be prepared for change. Be prepared for the shock of academic and non-academic discussions in middle school about topics you never heard your child mention before.
  6. Tell administrators about teachers who make a positive impression. Do you enjoy being complimented? So do teachers.
  7. Reward positive accomplishments (agenda book completely filled in, perfect papers, etc.) on a weekly basis. A little goes a long way, and middle schoolers thrive on praise.
  8. Get involved. Research has shown that parents’ participation increases the child’s self-esteem, improves their academic performance, improves the parent-child relationship, and develops a more positive attitude toward school in both the parent and child.
  9. Ask your child to teach you at least three new things they learned each day! Listening is one of the greatest–and most neglected–skills of parenting. Don’t be too busy with the little stuff in life to miss the important moments with your child. When they tell you about their day, look them in the eye, and listen; really listen!

Be objective. Listen to your child’s teachers. Sometimes they may tell you things about your child you aren’t going to like or want to hear. But remember, your child at home is not necessarily the same child they see at school. You don’t have to take everything the teacher says as gospel, but make sure you really listen and consider their advice.

Get With the Program: The Importance of Settling into Routines at the Start of the School Year

The beginning of a new school year can be stressful for children and parents alike. Children must woefully say goodbye to carefree summer days, and say hello to alarm clocks, schedules, and routines. The truth is, as much as a routine may feel foreign to children after three months of freedom, it is vital to put routines in place at the start of the school year. Settling into the school year takes time and patience, especially if your child is transitioning to a new school. However, providing your child with a set routine will make this transition much easier.

It is especially important to begin the routine right when school starts. Have you ever tried to put the toothpaste back into the tube? Trying to implement a routine after beginning the year with a lax attitude is like trying to undo the toothpaste mess—frustrating, messy, and likely impossible.  

Beginning a routine from the get-go eliminates the stress of having to undo negative behavior patterns and mindsets. A set routine provides many advantages for parents and children. Here are ways to initiate a routine:

  • Set expectations
  • Teach time management
  • Provide structure
  • Reduce anxiety by eliminating “the unknown”
  • Build trust between parents/caretakers and children

By setting expectations, children learn what is and is not acceptable. For instance, when children know that homework must be completed by a specific time, there is no questioning or negotiating at the end of the day. Similarly, the routine creates pockets of time in which activities will take place. Children are often booked with practices, rehearsals, homework, family events, etc. Managing all of these items is stressful enough for adults, let alone children. When parents and children plan ahead together to allot time for each activity, children learn how to use their time productively. They also learn to prioritize activities.

A routine is emotionally beneficial, as well. It is human nature to stress about the unknown or unexpected. When children follow routines, they know what to expect. Thus, anxiety is reduced when children are familiar with the trajectory of their day.

Of course, a crazy little thing called life may disrupt the routine from time to time. This is ok. More than ok, actually. Like adults, children learn to be flexible, adaptable, and creative during unpredictable times. It is important for parents to recognize the likelihood that the routine may need to be adjusted occasionally. Plasticity is key to utilizing the routine.

Settling into a new routine could begin by simply implementing a family calendar on the refrigerator. Color-coded sticky notes are a great way to visually coordinate and plan for activities during the week. Children in the middle grades could certainly be responsible for posting their own scheduled activities, as well. This would highlight their important tasks for the week while encouraging personal responsibility. Keeping everyone on the same page, literally and figuratively, will help to create a much-needed routine during the school year!

Kick Start Kindergarten With Success!

 

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It is Essential to kick start kindergarten with success! As exciting as the first day of school can be, first-timers can experience quite a bit of nerves in the beginning. These are the top ten ways to help reduce anxiety and ease into kindergarten!

  1. Picture it. Research shows that kindergartners are initially concerned with knowing where the bathrooms are, when lunch is, and who will play with them on the playground. Ease these specific concerns by writing a positive story about the first day of kindergarten. Include tasks like getting around the building, lining up for lunch, and making friends at recess. Then have your little one illustrate the story.
  2. Calm the fear of the unknown. Ask the school for a schedule and create a visual list of the daily kindergarten routine. Post it in your home and discuss what a typical day will be like. Knowing “what comes next” is a big hurdle when easing anxiety.
  3. Be an Explorer. Explore the school before the first day—take a tour, walk or drive by the school, play on the playground, visit the website, or talk about the school mascot. Ask questions, such as which way do you turn to get to your classroom?
  4. Say Cheese. At orientation, snap a picture of your child in the classroom with his or her teacher. Capture pictures of the circle time, the front door, the cafeteria, and the gymnasium. Place them on the refrigerator as a visual reminder.
  5. Talk it Out. Talk about the teachers and staff who will teach and care for your child during the day. Look ahead at the school’s event calendar and talk about special activities coming up. Interview a neighborhood child that has already experienced kindergarten. Validate any concerns by telling them about your first day of school.
  6. Let’s Play. Connect with kids in the neighborhood or new friends from orientation before the start of school. Arrange for kids in the class to meet at a local playground just before school starts. A friendly face is always welcome.
  7. Balancing Act. Try out “cafeteria style” eating at a local restaurant and practice opening food packages. Teach them to use their “milk thumb” to hold a round milk container when it is lying flat. This will prevent it from rolling off of their tray. A little self-sufficiency goes a long way.
  8. Rise and Shine. Adjust your child’s sleep schedule, including bedtime and wake-up time, several weeks before school begins. Ten hours of sleep is a good rule of thumb.
  9. Beat the Rush. Shop early for school supplies. Allow your child to select the necessary items. Have your child practice packing a backpack and walking around with it.
  10. Countdown. Anticipate the first day of kindergarten. Count down the days to the start of school, similar to an advent calendar. Ask a school-related question each morning or surprise them with a treat when they open a numbered bag.