Happy Holidays

Article by Jacki Reinert, Psy.D.

“As a child, the idea of Christmas meant cookies, presents, time with family, and of course, giving up TGIF’s Full House in favor of holiday movies. Everything from Scrooged to A Miracle on 34th Street to Home Alone, and every clay animated favorite served as the framework for my formulation of what the holidays truly meant; “It’s Christmas Eve. It’s the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we smile a little easier, we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year we are the people that we always hoped we would be.” Frank Cross’s commentary on Christmas set expectations high, and year after year, we hoped to top the magic and splendor of the previous year’s festivities.
As a parent, the holiday season conjures up warm memories of childhood, ignites aspirations to establish new traditions, and creates opportunities to share experiences with our loved ones, particularly our children. The magic of the holidays can also cultivate high expectations; to act nicer, smile easier, and to cheer more. These expectations more often than not exceed our capacity to truly encapsulate the hopes and aspirations we drum up in our heads. High expectations can pave the way for increased levels of perceived stress.
The American Psychological Association recently released its annual review, Stress in America (November, 2017), which indicates the United States has reached its highest stress level yet. Acute arousal stress in isolation can activate and enhance mobilization, sharpening our concentration and preparing our bodies to engage in challenging tasks, such as wrapping those last two presents and baking another round of cookies. This basic human reaction known as the “flight-or-fight” response has served us well, priming our bodies to flee or combat unsafe situations; however, our bodies can also overreact to simple, non-threatening situations, such as holiday pressure, financial difficulties, and increasing family demands.
Chronic stress has far more lasting and serious complications, particularly when it exceeds our ability to cope and leads to emotional and physical dysregulation. Stress is negatively related to our coping potential and our perception of control, which decreases use of problem-solving coping strategies and increases negative coping strategies, such as alcohol consumption and avoidance tactics (Rui Gomes, Faria, & Gonçalves, 2013). Individuals who experience elevations in stress and engage in maladaptive coping strategies such as drinking more alcohol, complaining, sleeping less, and consuming unhealthy foods which increase chances of becoming physically and mentally run down.
For parents, the added stress of the holidays and high expectations can have a significant impact on not only themselves, but those around them. Research suggests that adults are more likely to find family responsibilities stressful than they have in the past (APA, November, 2017). High expectations can make capturing the perfect holiday, particularly when parenting a child with special needs, a stressful time, leading to feelings of resentment (“I’m doing all of this and no one is helping me”), frustration (“I have no time to fit this all in”), and disappointment (“It seems like they didn’t have a good time”).
This year, I encourage you to lower your holiday expectations, increase self-care and self-compassion. While practicing self-care may be the furthest thing from your mind, the following may offer some reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.
1. Expect that things will go wrong, and that’s okay. Someone will get sick, you might burn a dish, and yes, that’s okay. Avoid catastrophic thinking, a common cognitive distortion where we imagine and worry about the worst possible situation, either consciously or subconsciously. For example, your ability to prepare the perfect holiday dinner for twelve people is an act, not a representation of how good of a person you are. You are not the sum of how well-executed things are, how perfectly the house looks, how your children act.
2. Practice self-regulation and utilize coping skills. The easiest way to understand the subtle difference between these two concepts is to imagine yourself in a car, driving down I-90 into Boston and someone cuts you off. To access a coping skill to manage your anger, you would first need to pull off the highway, put the car in park, and throw on your hazard lights. Conversely, if you were utilizing a self-regulation skill, you could continue driving and manage your thoughts and feelings in the moment. Self-regulation is the ability to modulate our emotions and impulses, to keep ourselves in check, whereas coping is a process or actions that help you manage difficult emotions. Examples of self-regulation skills include diaphragmatic breathing (learn more here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFcQpNr_KA4&t=140s) and box breathing (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dP4Jxxhhzl0). Coping skills can include meditation (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Bs0qUB3BHQ), and progressive muscle relaxation (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nZEdqcGVzo).
3. Practice micro-moments of positivity. Research suggests that rather than pursue the perfect gift to demonstrate your love for a family member, seeking out opportunities to be present and make a meaningful connection have a more lasting effect (Heshmati, Oravecz, Pressman, Bathcelder, Muth, & Vandekerckhove, 2017). Crawling into bed and reading a holiday book with your children, or complete a small craft together can have a more lasting impact that securing a sloth Fingerling for them. You can read more about micro-moments here: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/12/09/568834440/what-s-better-than-expensive-presents-the-gift-of-presence
4. Opt outside! Research suggests that spending time in nature can have significant effect on mood (https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/12/09/568834440/what-s-better-than-expensive-presents-the-gift-of-presence) and can increase sun exposure and the benefits of Vitamin D. Locate a winter wonderland hike here: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/health/2016/01/11/winter-hiking-massachusetts/
5. Finally, don’t forget about self-care. Self-care is a deliberate act to support and nurture your physical and mental health. Taking care of yourself not only helps you but those around you. There are several TED talks highlighting the benefit of self-care: https://www.ted.com/playlists/299/the_importance_of_self_care 
Enjoy your holidays everyone.

Just out December 2016.

Parent and Educator Resource Guide to Section 504 in Public Elementary
and Secondary School pamphlet was just published by the US Department of
Education, Office of Civil Rights.  It’s available at the following link
https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/504-resource-guide-201612.pdf

FIVE CLASSROOM PRACTICES YOUR DYSLEXIC KIDS DON’T NEED

From Emily Gibbons at The Literacy Nest

“Being fair doesn’t ALWAYS mean doing the same thing for everyone. 
The minute we as teachers and parents let that sink in, we can begin to free ourselves of some of the things that felt like non-negotiables, but honestly, should be for a dyslexic child. So here are five things they do not need. Why? It’s all about leveling the playing field.

FYI- This is an opinion post based on working with dyslexic children for 16 years and speaking with hundreds of teachers who work with them.

1. The Same, Weekly, Spelling List And Test As The Rest Of The Class
Weekly spelling tests are great for kids with excellent rote memory. You get your words on Monday, you practice all week, cram on Thursday night and test on Friday. The cycle starts all over the next Monday. We don’t create successful spellers in this cycle. And if you have dyslexia, you need a structured approach to phonics and spelling that focuses on one pattern, rule or skill at a time. Too many lists go home that teach TOO MANY RULES.  It’s difficult to teach spelling skills for mastery when there are too many skills within one list.

2. Timed Math Fact Tests
This is another rite of passage in many classrooms as is the weekly spelling test. Kids need practical strategies that will help them build flexibility and fluency with their math facts. Rote memorization of facts is a source of stress for many children with dyslexia. Anyone under stress knows one thing: learning will not happen with fear. Give tools, practice things like skip counting and looking for patterns in multiples, instead.
3. The Same Homework
When I was a classroom teacher, I was guilty of giving out the Monday packet to be completed and turned in by Friday. There is a great debate going on about giving homework at all.  Cutting the quantity for a dyslexia child is leveling the playing field when you consider the amount of time and mental energy it takes to get through a single homework assignment, especially after a long school day. For older students, cutting quantity might be easy to do when you have been assigned a report. But the pathway to get there can be reformed with assistive technologies.

4.  Unsupported Sustained Silent Reading
Let’s be clear. SSR is NOT the same as structured independent reading time within a literacy block. SSR is futile if a child is reading a book that is too challenging or abandoning books every day. No one wants to see a struggling reader left out to pasture in a manner of words. Teachers need to assist children with appropriate book choice and then check in with them through mini conferences or use of a sticky note or reading log. This should happen more frequently for dyslexia readers. Dyslexic readers should have access to audio books as much as possible.

5. Marked Down For Spelling Errors
I see this happening a lot with dyslexia kids. Listen, they know they have a hard time with spelling. Circling a bunch of spelling errors in red or purple or marking them down will not help them improve. I will say, however, as an O.G. teacher that holding kids with dyslexia accountable for the lessons that have had explicit phonics instruction is a good thing. We teach for mastery in O.G. If my student has mastered the FLOSS Rule, then I will expect them to try their best to apply that rule in their writing. The key is to have accountability in spelling in small doses, not overwhelmingly long lists of rules.”
http://www.theliteracynest.com/2016/11/five-classroom-practices-your-dyslexic.html

Dyslexia – Knowledge, Awareness, and Empowerment

This fall, my friend Sara and I taught a community education class on Dyslexia and received many positive comments from those that attended, so we decided to do it again.

 

Here are the details:

Dyslexia – Knowledge, Awareness, and Empowerment

Dyslexia is a learning challenge facing many children.  Come learn about dyslexia and other learning difficulties.  The main objective of the class is to discover tools and attitudes that will empower students with learning struggles.  This is a great survey course for parents and instructors.

Classes are Monday evenings at Ordean East Community School on Feb 22th, 29th and March 7th from 6:30 to 8:30pm.

 

Click here to sign up.

 

 

I will also be hosting a community education session:

 

Struggling Learners – What a Parent Should Consider

 

Is this year hard for your child? How can you help your child be more successful at
school? Homework takes hours and we’re still in elementary school, should it be this
hard? We’ll talk about reasons why kids struggle, how to help and how work with his/her
teacher.

 

This class is Tuesday, Feb 9th at Lincoln Park Middle School from 6:30-8:30pm.

 

Register here.

DYSLEXIA SYMPTOMS

From Jill M. Ham, Ed.S. Educational Consultant and Dyslexia Expert from Children’s Dyslexia Center of Georgia

Jill list many of the symptoms that might indicate you want to learn more about dyslexia (reading), dysgraphia (writing), and/or dyscalculia (math).

Reading
#1 Issue: CAN read fluently due to memorizing SIGHT WORDS, but cannot decode unfamiliar words, spell correctly, or write complete sentences with punctuation.
• Reading is slow and choppy, not fluent, but reader can re-tell story
• Reading is fast and fluent, but can not recall the information read
• Struggles with attaching the correct sound to the correct letter
• Will say the individual sounds r-a-t but can not tell you the word at the end of sounding it out
• Will say the letter name instead of the sound when trying to sound out a word
• Can not remember the same words on the next page when reading a book that repeats
• Cannot decode unfamiliar words that they have not memorized
• Skips words when reading
• Omits words when reading
• Inserts words that look visually similar, for example instead of reading HOSE it would be HORSE or HOUSE
• Avoids reading and will always check to see how many pages are in the book first
• Eye Sight is Fine, but Vision Therapy May Be Recommended

Writing
• Handwriting is tiny, small, large, and changes size
• Writing takes a very long time to due and very laborious
• Always struggled with writing letters in a fluid motion, many children draw their letters with circles and sticks
• Has a hard time copying notes from the classroom teacher or white board
• Phonetically Spells words (missing vowels or silent letters)
• Struggled or still struggles writing the alphabet without hesitations (hesitations occur when the writer pauses or has to stop and think which letter or how to form the letter)
• Will inverse letters when writing (writing letters from the bottom to top, instead of top down)
• Will reverse letters: d, b, p, q, z and many times write a j for g and a g for j
• Struggled or still struggles with remembering the difference between: b, d, p and sometimes m and w or n and u and we typically see the j and z reversed
• Will capitalize the B and D when writing so they do not reverse the lowercase b and d
• Will write uppercase letters mixed in with lower case letters
• Will write above and below the line without using the correct pencil grip

Working & Long Term Memory
• Executive Functioning Deficits
• Struggles with Working & Long Term Memory
• Hard time breaking task or multiple steps into parts
• Takes a long time to learn new concepts
• Learning vocabulary words and commutative information is extremely challenging
• Learns better with visual (concrete information) and hands on

Math
• Struggles with memorizing addition and subtraction facts
• Struggles with word problems in math
• Struggles with memorizing and recalling multiplication facts
• Struggles with multiple step math problems
• Very creative in arts, music, dance, drama, but has a hard time staying focused
• Does not understand the concept of time and struggles telling time
• Struggles with money and counting money
• Struggles with going backwards and forwards on the number line

Homework & Sensory
• May Exhibit Signs of ADD or ADHD
• Low Self-Esteem and Very Self Conscious
• Fidgets, rocks, moves or tries to avoid when given a reading, spelling or writing task
• Homework and studying takes HOURS and MELT DOWNS occur
• Parent is re-teaching information daily/nightly
• May teach new information and 30 minutes later the child does not remember the information presented

Struggling Students

Struggling Students: What a Parent Should Consider

 

Tuesday – April 28, 2015

 

6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

 

Denfeld High School

 

Duluth, MN

 

Why has this year been so hard for my child at school? This class will include an overview of some warning signs of dyslexia (difficulty reading) and dysgraphia (difficulty writing), current research, assessment, ideas on how to help, and some of the advantages of this type of thinking.  Class is offered through Duluth Community Education.  Registration fee is $15.00. To register contact Janis Kramer 218.336.8760 x2 or instructor Deb Dwyer @ dwyers@boreal.org or 218-340-7393

“The 8 Skills Students Must have for the Future”

Michael Sledd writes “The 8 Skills Students Must have for the Future”  on Edudemic.com.  The original article is from Pearson’s 2014, “The Learning Curve”.  These are the strengths of many of the children I work with. As they work so hard on some foundational skills it’s important to remind them that their area of strengths are valued.  —

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