Parenting Tips

Signs Your Child May Have Autism

Are you worried that your toddler or preschooler may have Autism? Has your child’s preschool/kindergarten teacher expressed concerns about behaviour or social skills? Has your child’s Speech-Language Pathologist suggested an assessment? Below are some warning signs of a possible risk for autism. Red flags in toddlers: By 6 months: • No regular big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions By 9 months: • No regular back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions By 12 months: • Lack of responding to name consistently when called • No regular back-and-forth gestures such as pointing (with index finger), showing, waving or reaching By 16 months: •  No spoken words beyond “mama” or “dada” By 24 months: • No meaningful 2 word phrases that don’t involve imitating or repeating Red flags in pre-schoolsers: • Delays in language or speech skills •  Intense temper tantrum • Any odd repetitive movement patterns such as flapping arms/hand, pacing, walking on tip toes, jumping on the spot, rocking, twirling • Avoids eye contact • Difficulty adapting to changes in schedule or environment • Preoccupation with a narrow topic of interest - often involving numbers or symbols (e.g. memorizing or reciting information about shapes, letters, maps, train schedules, sports statistics) • Obsessively lines up toys or small objects • Spends long periods watching moving objects such as a...

Keeping Learning Skills Sharp During the Summer: Five Ways to Do It

Summer can be a time of relaxation, fun, and long, lazy days in the sun. It’s also an opportunity to keep kids’ skills fresh and to minimize measurable loss of academic and learning skills, known as ‘summer learning loss,’ during out-of-school time. Here are five ways to help your child to make the most of holiday time while keeping skills sharp: Schedule it: Keeping a daily or weekly schedule in place that builds in both downtime and activities need not be confining for families. Scheduling can facilitate planning ahead for parents, keep a sense of reliable routine in place (especially important for children who may struggle during unstructured time), and build excitement and anticipation about upcoming events.  Parents and children/teens can work together to build a plan that’s right for them. Read (and write) all about it: Summer holidays are the perfect time to catch up on reading and to read together. Gather recommendations from your local librarian, children’s reading lists, or from friends and family and compile a list of must-read material geared to interest, age group, and reading level. Converse about the characters and themes, and encourage children to extend the story through their own writing or recordings. Pick out...

How Occupational Therapy can help your child with ADHD/ADD

Occupational Therapists (OTs) are trained in task analysis so they can work with children, families and their family health and school teams to identify their strengths and challenges in an activity, the factors in the activity and the environment that affect their participation in the activity. OTs not only help the child learn the skill, they may also modify the activity or adapt the environment so the child can participate fully and perform the task. Simple changes, like an adapted pencil grip, carrying around a fidget toy or adjusting the classroom and/or desk & chair set-up, can help a child be more successful. Here are some strategies you can try at home to help your child: Use a visual timer during tasks where your child has difficulties focusing: Analog clocks show the passage of time more visually than digital clocks, which allows us to anticipate events. To provide further visual cueing and reduce anxiety of not knowing when time is up/being told to end an activity “all of a sudden”, try a sand timer or a Time Timer so your child can see how much time is left! Try a visual schedule for daily routines: A visual representation of the various...

PARENT LIKE A SHARK AND RAISE A CONFIDENT CHILD
Parent Like a Shark and Raise a Confident Child

As a psychologist and consumer of pop culture (and popcorn!), I love borrowing from unlikely sources to inspire those “aha” moments that help children and families. ABC’s Shark Tank, a personal favorite in my go-to TV line-up, is one of those sources. It’s a show where brave entrepreneurs lay it all on the line for approval, mentorship and yes, even money, to propel their biggest dreams. So maybe you’re thinking, sure, my kids come to me for money, but where are you going with this? Bear with me. Here’s my pitch. Children crave and require unconditional love. They need to know you love, accept, and support them, no matter what, even when their ideas, dreams and behaviors don’t make a lot of sense to you, or you’re certain their strategies will fail. So what can the sharks in business teach you about raising confident children at home? Here are 4 strategies inspired by the tank. Avoid the whole “you’re dead to me” shtick: It probably goes without saying that Kevin O’Leary’s classic line, “you’re dead to me,” spewed when an entrepreneur fails to see the world from his perspective, is to be avoided. Your child will disagree with you at some point...

FOUR WAYS TO MAKE ANY TOY EDUCATIONAL
Four Ways to Make Any Toy Educational

Seems to me there is a whole lot of pressure on parents to buy toys that are “educational.” With the holidays around the corner, you might be looking for that perfect educational toy to complete your shopping list. In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t know what the heck an educational toy is. Really, I don’t. But from the looks of it, a toy is “educational” because 1) someone says it is, 2) it’s sold in a fancy store with other “educational” products, and 3) you’re told, more or less, “buy this toy and you’ll stimulate your child’s brain.” Sadly, these toys aren’t cheap, especially those backed by experts selling fun-tastic fertilizer for growing brains destined for the Ivy League. Thankfully, I can forgive my parents for failing to buy me fancy, educational toys. Instead (how dare they?!) they bought me, well, toys. Plain old regular toys. And sometimes they didn’t buy me toys at all (the nerve!). Sometimes I played with pots (gasp!), yarn (yikes!), and, wait for it, sticks (noooooo!). All these items were toys, if I chose to impose my imagination on them, and my parents made sure I did so by granting me free, unstructured time...

Tips To Help You Have A Better Day With Your ADHD Child

Parenting an ADHD child can be one of the most rewarding yet challenging experiences in your life. Here are some ideas to assist you. 1)Provide structure and routine. Children with ADHD need help with organization and following through. They do better when rules and expectations are clearly stated. Behaviour charts are a good way to establish clear rules and encourage compliance. Children love to earn rewards, and they will feel proud of themselves for being successful. 2) Catch a kid doing something good. Children with ADHD thrive on positives. Unfortunately, they often experience the opposite. Praise your child efforts as well as the outcomes. This focus is important to build confidence, encourage the child to try new things and set a tone for positive interactions. There are many strategies that are important, but they won’t be effective in the long run if the child does not feel worthwhile, valued and confident. 3) Set situations up for success. ADHD children need to be reminded of the rule/expectation before doing it. This is because they often rush into situations without thinking things through. For example, before a friend comes to visit, remind him or her of what to expect and how to respond. Role play...

5 Ways Mindfulness Can Help Self-Regulation in Children with ADHD

Mindfulness has become a buzzword as more and more people are looking for a way to combat stress and find peace within our busy lifestyles. Mindfulness meditation is a therapeutic technique derived from eastern philosophy that aims to reduce arousal, guide attention to the present moment, increase awareness and promote non-judgmental observation. Not only is mindfulness useful for bringing calm to our busy, anxious and hectic society, it is also an excellent therapeutic tool for children with ADHD to increase self-regulation and harness a greater ability to focus. 1. Mindfulness can strengthen the neurodevelopment of self-regulation When introduced at a young age, mindfulness has the ability to strengthen a child’s neurodevelopment of their capacity for reflective reprocessing. This means that a child’s ability to reflect. on and interpret their actions and the consequences of their actions can be heightened. By strengthening a child’s reflective reprocessing mindfulness addresses the core factor of self-regulation. 2. Mindfulness can aid in a child’s learning process experience increased levels of stress and anxiety compared to children without ADHD. Symptoms of hyperactivity and inattention, especially in the classroom, create a barrier to learning and increase anxiety for children, parents and teachers. With the practice of mindfulness meditation children with ADHD...

iNeedtofocus: ADHD in the age of Tablets

“Difficulties with attention? Yes she does, but not all the time. She can pay attention to her tablet for hours” - are the words we often hear from parents who visit our clinic. These parents are not strangers to the mesmerizing power of tablets, which seem to draw the attention of children like moths to their iridescent glow. Many have experienced the profound ability that tablets have to calm fussing babies, enrapture busy toddlers and entertain children and teens who otherwise can’t seem to focus for long enough to finish their math homework. But what is the nature of the power that these tablets seem to wield on children’s attention? And what is its relationship to ADHD? Those who are reading this are likely from a generation when the mode of play was tinker toys rather than tablets. The launch of the first ipad was in 2010, meaning that these devices, Ontario’s most popular hand-held object next to a Tim Horton’s double-double, are also younger than the average child we see at our clinic! Because of their newness, the literature on these devices and their impact on ADHD is scant, often leaving more questions than answers. But this is not to...

Schooling Your Child’s Education: Getting the System to Work for You

All children in Canada have the right to public education, but getting educational needs met is easier for some than for others. Special ­needs children may require adaptations to the curriculum or extra support from paraprofessionals. Often, advocacy and collaboration with schools will be necessary for parents of these children, but both these tasks require some knowledge of how to navigate the system. Many of the parents who come to our clinic find that this can be a complex and frustrating process. As such, we’ve outlined some basic tips for parents below. Whether you’re just familiarizing with your child’s school or already have them on speed­ dial one, having good communication and a good sense of your child’s learning needs can only help your child have the best experience possible in the public school system. 1. Terms of the Trade: know the ABC’s of IEP’s (etc). Like all institutions, the education system has it’s own lingo and set of acronyms which aren’t necessarily obvious. Below is a list of some common terms you might encounter: Term Definition IEP (which stands for: “Individual Education Plan”) A plan which outlines the special educational programs and services that the child will receive. Psychoeducational Assessment An assessment completed or supervised by a registered...

Welcome to the ME Zone! An Introduction to Mindfulness Training for Kids

Lots of children, and children with ADHD especially have difficulty maintaining attention and staying focused; struggle to understand and regulate intense emotions, and act in impulsive ways. With all of the demands and excitements of everyday life including school, friends, family, technology, games, sports etc. it can be hard for any child to focus on one thing at a time and to be fully present in their everyday life. With ADHD the ability to stay focused and be present is that much more difficult. Difficulty with attention and over stimulation can also make self-regulation difficult for children with ADHD leading them to have difficulty regulating their emotions and behaviours. Mindfulness meditation is a therapeutic technique derived from eastern philosophy that aims to reduce arousal, guide attention to the present moment, increase awareness and promote non-judgmental observation. Emerging research in the field of mindfulness meditation for ADHD demonstrates that mindfulness training has the ability to strengthen attention, executive functioning and emotion regulation for individuals with ADHD. The use of mindfulness training is increasingly being applied to work with children with ADHD. When children with ADHD are exposed to mindfulness training at a young age, mindfulness has the ability to strengthen a child’s...