Monday, April 12, 2010

How to choose the best educational toy !!

Is the toy age-appropriate?

Many of us fall victim to the rationale that our child is smarter than average, and sometimes ignore the age recommendations provided by the toy's manufacturer. Sometimes this is the right decision based on our own experience with our child, but sometimes this is wishful thinking. While the manufacturer's age recommendation is simply a guideline, we have to realize that it is a well-researched guideline and is often fairly accurate. That being said, I would never not recommend or not buy a toy because my child was one or two years outside of the recommended age. I would simply take a closer look at it before making a decision.

Does it serve my child's interests?

This is a question that needs to be answered on a case-by-case basis and as parents, we are most likely to be the ones who best know our children's interests. If a child is already interested in bugs, an ant farm or insect collecting science kit is probably a valuable toy for your child.
It may be natural for us to try to encourage a new interest in our children, but we should be cautious in not trying to project our own interests too strongly. Most children will naturally be attracted to the interests of their parents but this isn't always the case. I love catching bugs in the backyard with my son, but I don't expect my daughter (when she's old enough) will enjoy it as much as my son does. Maybe I'm wrong and I will certainly foster this interest if she decides to go down that path.
The best advice may be to go with your child's interests as often as possible, but occasionally introduce toys that introduce new subjects to them and gauge their interest accordingly. A child may never know how interested they are in ecology and plant science until they get a windowsill greenhouse and grow their own plants. A child may not have ever considered chemistry as something fun until they learned how to make their own bubble gum with a chemistry kit.

Does it arouse my child's curiosity?

Sometimes a toy will not only provide an immediate fun experience, but will start the child down a path of more advanced thinking. The same child who grew bean sprouts in the windowsill may wonder what the plant cells look like under a microscope. She may wonder how a simple seed can take water, nutrients from the soil and sunlight and turn into a much bigger plant with stalks and leaves. Next, she may wonder how a tiny acorn can grow into a huge tree over hundreds of years.

Granted, not all toys will naturally foster this type of analytical thinking, but some of the best ones do. So it's worth it to ask yourself this question when considering an educational toy. Will buying my son a simple chemistry set lead him down a path to eventually asking how plastic is made? Or why some plastic is brittle while some bends much more easily?

Any toy that arouses this natural curiosity in a child would be valuable to their growth. A video game may or may not cause a child to wonder who created the game and what programming was involved in making it. But a solar powered physics kit will undoubtedly make the child wonder how invisible rays from the sun can make a motor run. This curiosity is the unheralded foundation of a great education.

Who makes the toy?

I mention this question as simply something to consider as the safety of toys is something we are always concerned with. Be aware that just because a manufacturer is one of the major players in the industry doesn't mean that a particular toy is as safe as it should be. But also be aware that just because you haven't heard of a company doesn't mean that their toy won't be the one that sparks your child's interest in a subject that will serve them well for the rest of their life.

There are hundreds of quality educational toy providers that most parents have never heard of. Do a little research. If you find a toy that looks like it may be valuable to your child, search for that company's name and products on the Internet and see how many stores are selling their product. Of course this isn't a sure-fire way to gauge a toy's value to a particular child, but it can give you a quick snapshot of the reputation of the company that makes the toy.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

4 Effective Ways To Help An Autistic Family Member

1. If you are living with an autistic family member, it won't take you long to discover that it can be a difficult medical condition as such a person can have special needs, which are challenging and demanding, but they also have the right equal to yours to lead a fulfilled life. In order to do this for your loved one, you can learn about ways to help the affected person bridge the gap between needs and fulfillment so they can enhance the quality of their life. Begin with educating yourself on the causes of the disorder: it is not because of anything the person did and the fault of the people around the person. Do not be judgmental in any way as it is frustrating for autistic people to deal with family members who are intolerant of their limitations, which are real and surmountable.

2. Work closely with the autistic family member to understand his or her feelings; teach them and train them in positive values and habits in a patient manner even as they get distracted as such persons tend to lose their mental grasp on concepts easily and frequently for no fault of theirs or yours. First ensure you have caught their attention then proceed to speak and explain new learning concepts; repetition is a good way to determine how much the autistic person has followed your teaching.

3. Going over the same thing a few times helps autistic persons grasp new concepts better as does providing a sense of routiness, especially if the affected person is a young child. Small children diagnosed with autism find it easier to adapt to new learning and surroundings when they are familiarized with a daily routine as this gives them a sense of comfort knowing they are about to re-learn something at a specific time or date.

4. Helping an autistic family member come to terms with his or her condition, especially when it is a young child, is most important to get them on the way to happy and healthy lifestyle: get as much information on the subject as possible frommedical health experts, books and reading material besides websites for tools regarding dealing with autism and the true nature of the disorder so you can understand the affected person's needs better.

Combining these tips and incorporating them in your daily contact with autistic family members as well as others in the community will help you connect better with such persons and help them lead normal, healthy lives. Therefore, it is important to have an open attitude towards learning about autism in order to build better relationships with affected people.

6 Key Social Skills

6 Key Social Skills

Social skills are arguably the most important set of abilities a person can have. Human beings are social animals and a lack of good social skills can lead to a lonely life, contributing to anxiety and depression. Great social skills help you meet interesting people, get that job you want, progress further in your career and relationships.

Happily, like any skill, social strategies and techniques can be learned…

The main social skills are as follows:

1) The ability to remain relaxed, or at a tolerable level of anxiety while in social situations

Regardless of how skillful you are in social situations, if you are too anxious, your brain is functioning in way unsuited to speaking and listening. In addition, if your body and face give the unconscious message that you are nervous, it will be more difficult to build rapport with others.

2) Listening skills, including letting others know you are listening

When you had dinner with Gladstone, you were left feeling that he was the most charming person you had ever met. But after dinner with Disraeli, you felt that you were the wittiest, the most intelligent, the most charming person.
Dr Warren Bennis PhD, University of California

There is little more attractive and seductive than being truly listened to. Good listening skills include:

* Making 'I'm listening' noises - 'Uh-huh', 'really?', 'oh yes?' etc.
* Feeding back what you've heard - "So he went to the dentist? What happened?"
* Referring back to others' comments later on - "You know how you were saying earlier…"
* Physical stillness, eye contact and attentiveness while the other person is talking.

3) Empathy with and interest in others' situations

A major part of social anxiety is self consciousness, which is greatly alleviated by focusing strongly on someone else. A fascination (even if forced at first) with another's conversation not only increases your comfort levels, it makes them feel interesting.

4) The ability to build rapport, whether natural or learned

Rapport is a state of understanding or connection that occurs in a good social interaction. It says basically "I am like you, we understand each other". Rapport occurs on an unconscious level, and when it happens, the language, speech patterns, body movement and posture and other aspects of communication can synchronise down to incredibly fine levels.

Rapport is an unconscious process, but it can be encouraged by conscious efforts.

* Body posture 'mirroring', or movement 'matching'
* Reflecting back language and speech, including rate, volume, tone, and words
* Feeding back what you have heard, as in 2) above

5) Knowing how, when and how much to talk about yourself - 'self disclosure'

Talking about yourself too much and too early can be a major turn-off for the other party in conversation. Good initial small-talk is often characterised by discussion of subjects not personal to either party, or by an exchanging of personal views in a balanced way.

However, as conversations and relationships progress, disclosing personal facts (small, non-emotional ones first!) leads to a feeling of getting to know each other.

6) Appropriate eye contact

If you don't look at someone when you are talking or listening to them, they will get the idea that:

* You are ignoring them
* You are untrustworthy
* You don't like the look of them (!)

This doesn't mean you have to stare at them. In fact, staring at someone while talking to them can give them the feeling you are angry with them. Keeping your eyes on them while you are listening, of course, is only polite.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Top 6 Tips to Teach Social Skills and Help Kids Make Friends

Top 6 Tips to Teach Social Skills and Help Kids Make Friends

Teaching social skills and making friends may not be the first thing we think about when planning our children's individual education programs. In the middle of school IEP committee meetings, academics issues are at the forefront and not teaching social skills. Whether or not teaching social skills is ultimately included in an Individual Education Program, there are some things that can be done to help children with learning disabilities build the valuable social skills and relationships that are so important to their self-esteem and sense of belonging.

1. Teaching Social Skills in Extra-Curricular Activities
Surprisingly, many children in special education programs do not participate in extracurricular activities, and they miss this important social skills teaching opportunity. Help your child discover his strengths and interests to help him choose the right place for him to learn social skills. Whatever your child enjoys, it is likely there are opportunities to teach social skills in your community and for him to join with others. For social skills teaching ideas, contact community resources such as the local library, YMCA, church youth group, 4-H clubs, or other clubs scouting organizers, or community parks and recreation staff.

2. Organized Activities Help Teach Social Skills and How to Make Friends
Teaching Social Skills with Activities Beyond School

Your child will benefit from social skills teaching inherent in social interaction outside the school setting. With your encouragement, even reluctant or shy children can be taught social skills through interaction with others through activities. Many relationships he builds will flow naturally back into the school environment. Just as importantly, non-disabled students will have the opportunity to see your child in successful roles outside of school and get to know him as a friend, rather than an acquaintance.

3. Teaching Social Skills and Building Friendships in Easy-to-Manage Steps
Teaching Social Skills with Easy Step-by-Step Tasks

Teach your child social skills needed to develop friendships in small, easy steps. Social skills may not come easily for her. Children with disabilities may feel intimidated by other kids, and they may find it too uncomfortable to try to reach out to them. Help your child work on these social skills by setting small goals. Ask your child to smile and greet one new child each day. Just say, "Hi." This is often enough to reduce the pressure and begin some conversations that build toward relationships. Each night, have a friendly chat about his day, and talk about how many people he spoke to. Try these tips as well.

4. Teaching Social Skills and Making Friends Takes Practice
Role Play Social Situations to Teach Social Skills

Teach social skills by rehearsing social situations ahead of time. Role play meeting a new person with each other. Take turns being the greeter and "greetee." Teach your child the art of getting others to talk about themselves. Help him see that by doing this, he can learn about his peers and find common interests. Kids can use friendly, polite questions to encourage kids to talk and break the ice. Focusing on others will also help your child feel less self-conscious. Help your child learn how to choose good friends to develop healthy relationships.

5. Game and Sportsmanship can Teach Social Skills in Advance
Teach Social Skills at Home Before They are Needed

Teach your child social skills by helping him learn and practice games and activities at home that are popular at school. Aside from being a good way to practice skills such as reading, counting, and fitness, learning these games will help your child participate in them with other children, while reducing the impact of his learning disability on his ability to play. He will feel more confident and enjoy his interaction with others if he knows the games and can play them with some skill. Consider making your house the hangout for outdoor fun.

6. Schedule Fun Time to Make Social Skills and Making Friends a Priority
Create a circle of friends by encouraging playtime with a few neighborhood children. Invest in some quality time and snacks, and you'll cultivate friendships that may stay with your child throughout high school, maybe even for life. Friends from the same class at school can provide important social and emotional support, and not to mention, occasional homework help when a worksheet or assignment fails to make it from school to your house.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Stages of Social-Emotional Development In Children and Teenagers

This page presents an overview of the developmental tasks involved in the social and emotional development of children and teenagers which continues into adulthood. The presentation is based on the Eight Stages of Development developed by psychiatrist, Erik Erikson in 1956.

According to Erikson, the socialization process consists of eight phases - the "eight stages of man." His eight stages of man were formulated, not through experimental work, but through wide - ranging experience in psychotherapy, including extensive experience with children and adolescents from low - as well as upper - and middle - social classes. Each stage is regarded by Erikson as a "psychosocial crisis," which arises and demands resolution before the next stage can be satisfactorily negotiated. These stages are conceived in an almost architectural sense: satisfactory learning and resolution of each crisis is necessary if the child is to manage the next and subsequent ones satisfactorily, just as the foundation of a house is essential to the first floor, which in turn must be structurally sound to support and the second story, and so on.


Friday, April 2, 2010

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

What Conditions Are Considered Pervasive Development Disorders?

What Conditions Are Considered Pervasive Development Disorders?

from WebMD

There are five types of pervasive development disorders:

* Autism :

Children with autism have problems with social interaction, pretend play, and communication. They also have a limited range of activities and interests. Many (nearly 75%) of children with autism also have some degree of mental retardation.

* Asperger's syndrome :

Like children with autism, children with Asperger's syndrome have difficulty with social interaction and communication, and have a narrow range of interests. However, children with Asperger's have average or above average intelligence, and develop normally in the areas of language and cognition (the mental processes related to thinking and learning). Children with Asperger's often also have difficulty concentrating and may have poor coordination.

* Childhood disintegrative disorder:

Children with this rare condition begin their development normally in all areas, physical and mental. At some point, usually between 2 and 10 years of age, a child with this illness loses many of the skills he or she has developed. In addition to the loss of social and language skills, a child with disintegrative disorder may lose control of other functions, including bowel and bladder control.

* Rett's syndrome :
Children with this very rare disorder have the symptoms associated with a PDD and also suffer problems with physical development. They generally suffer the loss of many motor or movement, skills -- such as walking and use of their hands -- and develop poor coordination. This condition has been linked to a defect on the X chromosome, so it almost always affects girls.

* Pervasive development disorder not otherwise specified (PDDNOS):

This category is used to refer to children who have significant problems with communication and play, and some difficulty interacting with others, but are too social to be considered autistic.