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Classroom Strategies to Support Special Needs Children

iStock_000005759838Small[1]Downs_1 copyThe beginning of the new school year can be an anxious time for parents of a child with special needs. Parents may worry about whether their child will be accepted into a new classroom. They may also worry about their child’s classmates and the teacher that is assigned. The school year is a long time, so every child deserves an environment that is suitable for learning and growing.
All children have the need for belonging, and yet, for children with special needs, they can often be left out by their classmates or left behind in their classroom studies. Having a learning disability doesn’t mean a child cannot learn, it simply means, the approach a teacher takes must be intentional so that the child CAN learn.

A few strategies that can make a big difference in the classroom include:

  • limiting distractions – teachers who are organized ahead of time, who can limit the number of interruptions or distractions can help a child stay focused on the learning.
  • breakdown instructions – teachers who will keep instructions short and who will repeat the instructions help students who need that reinforcement.
  • devise opportunities for students success. It may not seem important, but when students with special needs experience success in the classroom, it creates excitement that will reinforce their desire to try again! It is the support of the teacher, acknowledging student success that can make all the difference.

So parents, as school draws near, advocate for your child and watch your student succeed!

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Choosing the Chores

As I started thinking about chores and my childhood I was struck by a memory. I remembered how my sister and I divided our chores as pre-teens. We would take mom’s list, write the chores on small slips of paper, put them in a stocking hat and shake shake shake the hat. We then took turns pulling out the slips of paper. Groaning or cheering soon commenced followed by contemplative silence.

It was in this silence that I believe our ‘true’ learning happened. Imagine us analyzing our list. Carefully calculating how long the tasks would take. Considering the impact the list was about to have on our play time. Silently we would also process each other’s list in our heads. Deciphering if it might be worth it to try to trade out tasks to fit our play time plans better.  Tasks, total time and overall effort became part of the chore equation.

I would like to say that our tasks always got done… but we were just kids after all. Sometimes we spent too much time on the processing, negotiating and trading.  Other times we called in the neighborhood friends to help us finish faster and it actually took much longer than expected. Its also possible that every once in awhile mom may have shown up before the stocking hat selection even got started.

Regardless, we learned. We learned how important we were to our family unit. We learned and were proud. Proud of our creative process, our innovative ideas and our ability to negotiate to meet our own individual desires and needs. Chores weren’t always fun, but they were always at least a bit interesting.  (I wonder where that stocking hat is?)

 

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Chores Teach Responsibility

kid-thinking280

“It’s not fair”; “I don’t have time”; “It’s not my job”; Words often expressed by children who are asked to complete some household task!

Taking responsibility for a household task can assist children learn essential life skills, including taking responsibility, and expressing generosity. Families who work together to make decisions, keep the house clean, and care for one another, can use that energy to tackle even tougher issues! Don’t give up parents! Teaching your children to accept responsibility through assignments at home will create strong children!

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Spoiling Grandkids

This week we welcome guest blogger Kristi Cooper. Human Sciences Specialist in Family Life and new grandma.

were grandparnetsI had no idea I’d be taking my own advice years after I wrote about the overspending of grandmothers and aunts on new babies. I’m very excited to provide my 11 month old granddaughter with as many new experiences as she can handle.  Her parents are practical and their home is small so the oodles of toys, clothes and other baubles that are bestowed upon her by well-meaning relatives create stress. Besides, my grandgirl is pretty happy with simple household surfaces to pound and pull up on, and a human or two to keep her entertained.

Marketers of baby stuff focus on female consumers – aunts and grandmothers in particular – because their hearts are as big as their wallets. By keeping our wallets closed and our hearts open we can avoid turning our grandchildren into beggars and entitled teens. Here are 5 ways to love those precious little ones without creating strained relationships, stress over stuff and maintain our financial wellbeing.

  1. Gift of Talent/Skills We all have the need to contribute to our family and community. Share age-appropriate activities with your grandchild or grand babyPlay together – Teach a game from your childhood such as kick-the-can or hide-and-seek.
  2. Gift of Words Talk Together – Encourage grandchildren, nieces, and nephews by highlighting the positive values you see in them. Ask about their goals in life. Talk about how they can reach those goals. Point out the characteristics that you admire in them.
  3. Gift of Time Nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention – sharing conversation and activities. Work together  Do household chores, homework, bicycle repair or volunteer in the community with your younger generation. Working together teaches skills, work ethic and the value of contributing to others.
  4. Gift of Objects – We all like to receive objects that have been thoughtfully selected just for us. Keep material gifts to a minimum and consider the life-span of the object.  Create together – Choose toys  and consumables like art materials that stimulate critical thinking, imagination and are age-appropriate. Ask yourself, who is doing the thinking – the child or the manufacturer?
  5. Gift of Touch/Self Care – Wrap these gifts in plenty of hugs and kisses, bedtime backrubs, tickles and laughter. Practice relaxation techniques so you can be fully present for your grandchild.

YOU are the best gift your grandchild can receive!

 

 

 

Kristi Cooper

Kristi’s expertise in caregiving, mind body skills and nature education inspires her messages about healthy people and environments with parents, professionals, and community leaders.

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More than half of us have had ‘Adverse Childhood Experiences’

This week we welcome our guest blogger Kristi Cooper, Human Sciences Family Life Specialist.

Sunday Dinner at Grandma’s

I love this quote from the program “Lemonade for Life” – “You can’t rewrite the beginning of your story but you can change how it ends.”

Adverse childhood experiences (ACES) affect a child’s neurological, social-emotional and cognitive development. ACES may eventually manifest in chronic health conditions in adulthood.

I’m part of the 55% of Iowans who have more than one ACE. When I think of the chaotic times in my childhood, I’m grateful for the touch points that kept me ‘on track’. The research on Adverse Childhood Experiences tells us these touch points are called resiliency factors. These resiliency factors include individual capabilities, attachment and belonging with caring competent people and a protective community, faith or cultural process. Let me share a few of these touchpoints from my own life and maybe you can see how resilience can be woven through the fabric of our lives.

I am grateful for the elementary school nurse who never questioned my stomach aches and always had clean dry clothes for me to wear when I had an ‘accident’. I’m grateful for my 3rd grade teacher’s calm, caring approach and the interesting hands-on projects she had us do. She introduced me to creative writing which became an outlet for me whenever I felt life was overwhelming. I’m grateful for my grandmothers who loved me unconditionally and were always interested in me. I’m grateful for the routine of Sunday church followed by dinner at Grandma’s house with its comfort food, safety, hugs and laughter. All of these helped me feel normal and sane when life felt scary.

Spending time outdoors with cousins was an important touchpoint for me. Our many adventures catching tadpoles and crawdads, jumping the bogs in the pasture, riding bikes for miles, building snow forts and climbing in the empty corncrib took my mind away from the hurtful times. Music was another touchpoint for me. I saved my 4-H and birthday money and bought a guitar. With the creative writing gift from Miss Ihnen and my new instrument, I made it through a few more turbulent years.

All of these touchpoints helped to reset my stress response – all it takes is a 20 minute activity to reduce heart rate, regulate breathing again and re-focus the mind. As an adult I use meditation, yoga, journaling and sewing projects to reduce anxiety, keep depression away and help my mind think clearly. I have a therapist I consult when I need to sort things out. I’ve used my early experiences to change how I parented my children, hopefully, changing the course of my grandchildren’s lives. These individual resiliency practices combined with positive social relationships and trauma informed community resources help heal the impact of adverse childhood experiences and to reduce the impact of traumatic events.

What are the touchpoints that help(ed) you survive and thrive?

Janet Smith

Janet Smith

Janet Smith is a Human Science Specialist-Family LIfe with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She currently provides family life programming in eight counties in southeast Iowa. Janet is a "parenting survivor". She is the mother of Jared-21, Hannah-20, and Cole-15. She and her husband, David have faced many challenges together, including their son Jared's Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy diagnosis.

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STEM at the fair

It’s summer time! That means it’s county fair time. Do you know how much science, technology, engineering and math happens at a county or state fair?

Confession time, I was not a fair kid growing up. I thought that if I went to the county fair I would just see my friend’s farm animals and the cookies they had been practice baking for months. No really, that’s what I thought! I have come to learn however that it is about amazing fabulous STEM opportunities and experiences. Even as a visitor, your opportunities to experience STEM are endless.

When I searched ‘what to do at the fair’ I found an endless list of activities for families. From milking cows, to using robots, to participating in food demonstrations (read EAT), from creating your own artwork, to learning about wildlife and insects.  And these were just the 3 links I found from 3 different states! Not to mention all the counties in those various states that were sharing their fair activities.

Take a moment and think about how you might be able to encourage STEM activities in a fun and family friendly environment with your children. Most fairs are low cost or have discount days/times. They cater to families with children and want to create an engaging family focused time for you. Get creative while you’re at the fair. Create family challenges or mini-competitions at the exhibits and demonstrations. Enjoy the demonstrations and talk about how you might do something similar in your own home. Take the fair boards up on their offer, find a fair close to you and show your kids that you know a little about STEM too.

We would love to hear about your favorite fair experiences.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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From Maps to Apps

Vacation day arrives bright and sunny. As the car pulls out of the driveway, you glance into the back seat to be sure the kids are settled. And settled they are – completely engrossed in whatever their smartphones and tablets have to offer. Is this what you had in mind for family vacation? Are you going to be nagging everyone (maybe even yourself) the whole trip to put the phones away?

mapIt is well to remember that learning can happen in many ways. While the days of counting cars and playing the ABC sign game may be a thing of the past, family fun continues.

Here’s one example. Reading maps were a big deal when we traveled as a family. Someone would trace the route with a highlighter. We would use the legend to figure the distance in miles. Another person would check the population of towns we passed through and compare them to our hometown. Maps even had information about historical sites.

Now there’s an app for everything we used a map for – and more! Have the kids take turns with finding directions, checking out places to eat, sharing fun things about places, etc. You can make this into an electronic scavenger hunt (that dates me). The amateur photographers in the family can be responsible for taking pictures and creating a virtual album.

The point is to turn smartphones and tablets into a useful, learning part of vacation rather than a battle. And it’s still ok to occasionally have some “phone free” time. This too can become a game. Each family member gets to pick time during the awake hours each day when phones and tablets are taboo.

How do you handle this issue on your family vacation?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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A treasure hunt vacation? SIGN ME UP!

SandraGeocachingGeocaching: A Great Family Activity

Geocaching is a world-wide treasure hunt where you electronically use longitude and latitude to locate the “loot.” It is a great low-cost family activity. It is easy to catch on to and you can do it anywhere you are.

My adult son introduced me to the game. We used his handheld GPS unit and went searching in a nearby park. What we found was a camouflaged box full of trinkets. He explained we could take a trinket, but if we did we were to leave another of at least equal value. We signed the log that was inside the box and carefully put it back where we found it. Then we went along our merry way as if nothing had happened.

How did he know that the box was there? He went online to geocaching.com and searched near his home for a cache. He plugged the coordinates into his GPS and we left the house. When we were back to the house, he went online to log the find.

Now, the electronic treasure hunt is as easy as getting an app on your smartphone. You simply search near where you are, choose the level of difficulty and terrain you feel appropriate, and then off you go geocaching.

Since the time with my son, I have logged caches in several states. I have also introduced geocaching to several friends, relatives and colleagues. My 4 year old grandson and I have gone hunting together. We searched for one that was easy enough to get to and to find. He delighted to find the treasure! And no one saw us – which is a trick sometimes! You see, the caches are secret so you don’t want anyone to know what you are doing.

I’ve enjoyed traipsing stealthily all over the U.S. It is a quick activity to stretch your legs or get children out to run a bit when the family stops for a break on a trip. Or plan a picnic and day out exploring wherever you are. Hint: many geocaches can be found at safe places like rest areas, parks and cemeteries.

Maybe you’ll find a cache that I have hidden. What will be inside it?

To learn more about the rules and courtesies of the game, and to search near you, visit geocaching.com.

Guest Blogger, Sandra McKinnon

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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A Museum, No Way!

When our kids were growing up, there wasn’t much time or money for family vacations. But somehow one summer we managed to load the five of us in the Suburban and head to Chicago. Looking back I think all of us had different ideas about vacation. The girls wanted to swim in the pool at the hotel, my husband looked forward to interesting food, and I couldn’t wait to get to the museums. During the road trip, we started talking about possibilities and I realized I needed to think fast (something which Moms do pretty well).

d14db7fd3dHere is my solution. Each person got to choose one thing he or she really wanted to do. Then the rest of us would agree and participate. We didn’t have to like it but the rule was – no whining and no complaining. Now the interesting part. I chose the Museum of Science and Industry. A stern look was needed to silence the complaining that was about to erupt. We entered the museum and began to look at the exhibits on the first floor. And then the magic happened. After 30 minutes the girls were still enthralled in the first couple of exhibits. I had to keep encouraging them to move along to see more. Fun and learning and family time all got wrapped up into one wonderful afternoon. The discussions about what we saw and experienced extended well into the evening and later on the trip home.

A couple of takeaways here.

  • Mom doesn’t have to do all the planning. Everyone can have a voice in what the family does on vacation.
  • An afternoon at the museum can be a fascinating way to learn – in this case, science.

I still have a couple of the plastic cups we got at the Brookfield Zoo while on this vacation. Every time I use one, the fond memories come flooding back.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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Summer Vacation Time

Juggling work schedules, kids’ commitments and the family budget may make some parents wonder if a family vacation is worth the effort. But before giving up, consider this: the kids might learn something from the experience. Families take vacations for many reasons – to spend time together, have some fun, or rest and relax. However, research shows these opportunities to visit other people and places and see something new can actually boost your child’s academic achievement.

Join us during June as we talk about summer vacations and academic achievement.

 

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Spiritual Development

Spiritual development in children… yep it’s part of their natural development. It’s part of their moral and cultural development. We didn’t just pick this topic randomly. We selected it purposely because just like physical development and social development, it is a part of your child that will continue to grow and develop over time. It’s the part of your child that plays into how they begin to make sense of their world and the people in it.  It’s the part of their development that shapes their values and beliefs about their families, friends, communities and nations.

How then can we foster a healthy spiritual development? How can we help to answer their questions about their world in a positive way? How can we nurture values and beliefs and children’s spiritual development? Spiritual and moral development can be a daunting and abstract concept but as I was looking through various resources I came across this poem and thought I would share.

What is Spirituality?

delighting in all things

being absorbed in the present moment

not to attached to ‘self’ and

eager to explore boundaries of ‘beyond’ and ‘other’

searching for meaning

discovering purpose

open to more?

Spirituality is like a bird; if you hold it to tightly, it chokes; if you hold it too loosely, it flies away. Fundamental to spirituality is the absence of force.

– Rabbi Hugo Gryn

What are ways that you nurture spiritual development in your child?

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Fathers are more fun…

Got your attention didn’t I?  Now moms, don’t be mad at me because we can be WAY fun, and trust me I am a really fun mom, it’s just that sometimes I feel like fathers are more fun!

So I was curious. Was I just ‘feeling’ less fun? Or is there was a difference in how mothers and fathers have ‘fun’. Here is what I found.

A summary of Fathers Involvement in Their Children’s Schools shared the following (http://nces.ed.gov/pubs98/fathers/):

  • Researchers are in agreement that mothers and fathers interact differently with their children (Parke, 1995).
  • Fathers spend proportionately more time playing with their children, while mothers spend a greater proportion of their total time with their children in caretaking activities (Lamb, 1986).
  • Because mothers spend a greater amount of time overall with their children, they may actually spend more time playing with them than do fathers, yet caretaking is still what best characterizes their time, while play best characterizes the fathers’ overall time with their children.  Fathers and mothers also play differently with their children, with fathers much more likely to be rough and tumble (Parke, 1995; Hetherington and Parke, 1993).

Whew!!  I’m not less fun!  I just play different than fathers do!  I would love to hear how you play and have fun. Whether you are a mother or a father, spending time having fun and playing is so important. Share ideas here!

Lori

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Finding the ‘real’ stuff

So I have a confession. I usually consider myself pretty tech savvy. This week however, I learned something that has fascinated me about the internet. Did you know that if you google any topic and then use the :edu you will pull up more resources with educational credibility?    It might look like this: fathering site:edu

I HAD NO IDEA!!!!

So I did that for our monthly topic on Fathers.  AND WOW! I found ‘real’ information from credible and research based resources.

DAD’S you gotta try this!  (ok everyone should!)

Here are just a couple of sites I can’t get enough of:

What are some great sites you found when you tried the :edu ?

 

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Information Overload?

Do you have any idea on how much information there is on the internet telling you ‘how to be a mom’?

I realized that I was going round and round and deeper and deeper into the realms of the internet while I was thinking about what to write. I began to be overloaded and confused. What seemed to be such a simple task became overwhelming with so much information.

Isn’t that what being a mom ends up being? A seemingly simple parenting task can become overwhelming because of information from so many places and sources.

So what do we do? Here’s what I did. Pushed my chair back from the computer. Picked up the picture of my girls on my desk. Smiled. Took a deep breath. Deleted my search engines. And went back to the place I knew research was solid and strong. www.extension.org   And then I started again.

Sometimes as parents we have to remember that we need a strong foundation of one or two credible resources instead of a whole ‘favorites’ list of lots of opinions. I hope you enjoy searching the eXtension website as much as I did!

 

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Changing roles

As I pondered this topic I first thought I would blog about what I mean as a mother to my kids (and what does research say  about that key relationship).

Then as I began to search and study I found myself drawn to the information that sent me off into the land of caring for and making decisions for my mother. Although she is young and vibrant and enjoying her recent venture into retirement I found that I already know many people that are facing the many questions I found on the eXtension website.

What I found were so many great questions with fabulous answers in that ‘oh so tough land’ of switching from the role of child to ‘mother’ of our mother/father.

As you enjoy the celebration of a relationship with a ‘mother-figure’ or the relationship of being the ‘mother figure’ please know that there are many resources for you when you become the ‘mother’ of your beloved mother.

I would love to hear your thoughts and ponderings on the role reversal.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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