Boost Your Child’s Learning Potential

mother reading to baby Image courtesy of Jomphong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Studies have shown that the most important thing you can do to help your child do well in school is to read to them. You have the amazing power to boost your child’s learning potential and increase their language skills by reading to them every day.

Not only will your child learn basic sounds that form words, they will learn how words are put together in sentences and how to enunciate them clearly. Books open up the world to your child. They will see and experience new things through the characters in the books you read.

family reading book Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the best benefits of reading to your children is the close bond you will form with them over time as you go on reading adventures together. There is nothing better than snuggling together and reading a book. Make it a routine part of your day. Bedtime is a great time to share a quiet story and prepare a child to calm down for sleep.

Here are some ideas to help you get started:

It is never too early (or too late) to begin reading to your child. Some people read to their babies while they are in the womb. Start now and spend a few minutes each day reading with your child.

Have lots of books around the house. Do your children see you reading? Let each child pick a book to read, or take turns picking a book to read.

Go to the library often. Get your child a library card. Teach them to be responsible and take good care of the books they borrow. Many libraries have story times for children, and some even have story times for special needs children. If they don’t have such a program, why not suggest it to them?

Pick books that are age appropriate for your child. For younger children choose simpler themes. You don’t necessarily need to read the book verbatim. Simplify the language as needed. Children with special needs may have a shorter attention span. Keep it short and simple to begin with and keep it moving along to keep their interest.

Children usually have favorite books that they want to hear over and over again. Don’t push them to read something new right away. For special needs children re-reading the same book several times helps increase their retention.

Allow time to point out pictures in the book and ask questions. Talk about the story. Ask them what they think will happen next. Have them tell you the story some time. You may be surprised at how much they remember.

Books that rhyme are great for children with speech or language delays. Have the children repeat some of the words in the story. If there are animals in the story, have them make the animal sounds.

Make it interesting by using inflection in your voice. Make it fun. Use props. Act out part of the story. Make up a silly song to go along with the book or use hand motions for certain words.

For children who have trouble with their fine motor skills, glue pompoms onto the pages of the book to make it easier for them to grasp and turn the page.

For the visually impaired find books with extra large print. If your library doesn’t have these, ask them to consider buying some larger print books for visually impaired children. It never hurts to ask.

Record a video of your child reading a book. Kids love to see and hear themselves on camera. It doesn’t have to be perfect. For some special needs kids just making the basic sounds of the words is a big accomplishment. Celebrate their success.

Don’t make reading to your child a chore or something to cross off your to-do list. Relax. Don’t make a schedule or a rigid goal of reading so many pages each day. Take a break when your child needs one. Enjoy this time with your child. Just have fun! Before you know it, your child will be on the road to becoming a lifelong reader. girl carrying books Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Diet and Nutrition and the Special Needs Child

healthy plate The quality of our diet affects our health throughout our lives. As adults, we all know how good we feel when we are eating a healthy diet. It should come as no surprise then that diet and nutrition have a tremendous impact on children, especially our special needs children.

Studies have shown that nutritional deficiencies can profoundly effect a child’s ability to learn, communicate, think, socialize and adapt to new situations. Since these are areas that many special needs children already struggle with, it is vitally important that we make sure their bodies are equipped to do the work they need to do by providing them with a nutritious diet.

Special needs children can have a variety of issues with food: whether they display a lack of interest in eating, food aversions and sensitivities, difficulty swallowing, fixation on eating only one food, negative reactions to food textures and color, the list is endless.

Talk with your doctor, nutritionist or therapist about the best course of action for your child. A nutritional assessment will give you a good course of action specific to your child’s needs. Talk to other parents of special needs children and find out what is working for them. Research diet and nutrition online. Here is a Mayo Clinic article on basic guidelines for a healthy diet for kids: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/childrens-health/in-depth/nutrition-for-kids/art-20049335

Don’t be discouraged if changing your child’s eating habits takes a long time. Don’t give up. Just keep offering small amounts of the new foods you want your child try. Celebrate each small victory along the way. Be patient. Give yourself some grace.

A friend of mine whose son is autistic tells me that eating a healthy, organic diet has helped him tremendously. Some children with autism have problems with milk and gluten. There is a lot of information online about diets for children with autism. Finding the right diet for your child can help. You can find more about the Autism Diet here: http://www.autism-diet.com/

Studies suggest that a high-fat, low-carb, ketogenic diet can help prevent seizures in children who do not respond to medication. You can find more information here: https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/treating-seizures-and-epilepsy/dietary-therapies/ketogenic-diet

cuttingveggiesEating habits are formed early in life. Children watch what their parents are eating and learn to eat the same things. Do you model healthy eating habits? Do you keep healthy snacks easily available to your children? Set the example for your children and you will reap the benefits of good health right along with them. If possible, have your children help you shop and let them pick out the vegetables and fruit. Let them help you prepare some of the food you eat. Involve them in the decisions and preparation and it will go a long way towards helping them develop an interest in healthy food.

Some special needs children struggle with obesity due to limited mobility or conditions like low muscle tone which make it harder to keep weight off. Every child should be encouraged to find a sport they enjoy. The joy of movement and being a part of a team encourages friendships and cures the social isolation that so many special needs kids face. There are many adaptive sports teams today: Miracle League, TOPSoccer, and Special Olympics to name just a few. Check something out in your area and help your child get moving.

Don’t let your finances stop you from getting out and having fun. There are lots of free activities available. Take a walk. Go to the park. Call the zoo or museum and find out when they have a free day. Attend free community concerts or plays.

Always check with your doctor before making any drastic changes to your child’s diet, but remember that you know your child best. Every child, every family is different.

What kind of diet works best for your child? I would love to hear what works and what doesn’t work that you have tried.

Give Yourself Some Grace – letting go of the guilt

Notice-No-Fishing-Allowed-Sign-K-7896 Even though my children are grown now, I still suffer moments of guilt and sorrow over things I wish I had done differently as a parent. It is easy to look back with hindsight and see all the mistakes we made or choices that we regret. My husband and I had the best intentions as parents, but as fallible human beings we made mistakes. Every parent does.

But what do you do with the guilt?

When our children were growing up, if my husband or I blew it with them, we took the time to apologize right away. Whether it was losing our temper, or saying or doing something hurtful, once we realized we had been wrong, we asked forgiveness for our behavior. We did it sincerely and honestly. Deal with the sin right away and confess it to God and your children. Pray together and ask God help you be the parent He wants you to be. Like our Heavenly Father, children are always ready to forgive and give you another chance.

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

I have had people tell me that you should NEVER ask forgiveness of your children. I could not disagree more. Asking forgiveness from your children does not make you weak. You are setting an example for them that when you offend someone you ask forgiveness. This is a life lesson that will serve them well. Your children will respect you for your honesty, as long as your apology is heartfelt and they see that you really do try to change your behavior.

But what if after confessing your sin the guilt comes back? These thoughts are not from God. The Bible tells us that God not only forgives our sin, but He forgets our sin! In Jeremiah 31:34 it says, “…For I will forgive their iniquity and their sin I will remember no more.”

Corrie ten Boom had this to say about the subject, “When we confess our sins, God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever … Then God places a sign out there that says No Fishing Allowed!'”

When thoughts of guilt assail you for something that you long ago confessed, remember that these thoughts do not come from God. Instead of dwelling on past regrets and mistakes, thank God for forgiving you of your sin. Ask Him to help you to continue to grow more Christ-like. Thank Him for His grace and learn to extend that same grace to those around you, especially your spouse and your children.

God does not want you to live in guilt over past sins. Jesus came to set us free from sin and guilt. You can joyfully press on in life secure in the knowledge of God’s forgiveness and grace. Phil 3:13, “…this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.”

Leaving a Legacy

IMG_20140614_0002 The most meaningful and lasting legacy we leave our loved ones is not the money or property we leave behind, but rather the values and principles we live by each day.

All children naturally long for relationship with their father. Nothing can fill the place in their hearts that a father is supposed to fill. When a father is gone, whether through death, divorce or abandonment, their absence has a lifelong effect on their child.

My husband was raised by a single mom. His parents divorced when he was ten years old, leaving his mother to raise three children alone. His father chose to move thousands of miles away. Throughout most of his life, my husband was lucky if he saw his father once a year. His father moved on with his life and began a new family. His financial support was non-existent, right along with the emotional support and encouragement for his children.

Most statistics would have predicted that my husband would have repeated his father’s mistakes with his own family. Studies show that breaking the cycle of abuse, neglect or abandonment is near impossible. Thankfully, that is not the case with my husband.

Dan made a decision as a young man that he would never put his children through what he experienced as a child. With determination and God’s help, he purposed to become a great husband and father. He watched other men with their families. He listened to pastors and teachers impart wisdom on being a great husband and father. He read books on marriage and parenting. He became the father he never had.

My husband and I don’t have great wealth to leave to our children. The legacy Dan leaves is one of integrity and faithfulness. He is respected and loved by family and many friends. He has a good reputation in the community. He is a man of faith and principle.

On Father’s Day I am thankful for my husband and the father of my children. He may not be perfect, but he is perfect for us.

“A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove…but the world may be a better place because I was important in the life of a child.” Forest E. Witcraft

What kind of legacy are you leaving your children?

This post is not meant to cast blame or guilt on anyone who has suffered divorce or abandonment. It is meant as encouragement to parents to focus on leaving your children a legacy of values and integrity.

Memory Books for Special Needs Children and Their Caregivers

Jean Evanger and Janice Evanger My developmentally disabled sister has suffered from seizures since she was an infant. Most of her seizures are minor, but a few years ago she had a seizure so severe that she stopped breathing momentarily. Janice was hospitalized and recovered, but she seemed to regress and lost her sweet, fun-loving personality. She became fearful and teary, and suffered panic attacks. It has taken several years, but with much help and encouragement we are seeing signs that the old Janice is back. Yes!

During those years of her slow recovery, we tried anything we could to help stimulate her interests and calm her fears. One idea that I came up with was to make her a photo book of her life. I included pictures from her childhood to adulthood; school, Special Olympics and her awesome job at L’Arche Farm and Garden. I made sure to include pictures of all the people in our large family that love her. My hope was that the pictures would help her with her memory and remind her how much she was loved. Who wouldn’t love having a book written about themselves?

You can check out her book here: http://www.mixbook.com/photo-books/interests/meet-janice-evanger-6215383?vk=wo2jk9M4UI

Once we got the book in the mail, I realized that not only could the book bring enjoyment to Janice and help her memory, but it would be a great way for her caretakers to get to know her better. Some of her caretakers hadn’t known Janice before her setback. They needed to see how high functioning she was in the past, and hopefully could be again.

I think photo books are great tools for reaching individuals with disabilities and memory impaired adults, too. They can be awesome conversation starters for new friends and caregivers alike. They are great gift ideas for birthdays and holidays.

I made my photo book using Mixbook, but there are many companies that provide the same type of service.

Teaching Your Child the Joy of Service to Others

Janet Davis and her grandchildren, Cameron and MykaylaNo matter their age or ability, every human being longs to feel useful and needed. As parents, it is our job to nurture this innate desire in our children and teach them the joy of service to others. It should begin at a very young age as we naturally seek their help around the house with small chores.

From picking up toys or bringing mommy a diaper for the new baby, a toddler can be shown the fun of helping others. This requires patience on the part of parents, as little hands are slow and awkward and the task may not be done to your exacting expectations. Take a deep breath, and for your children’s sake (and the sake of your sanity), let those unrealistic expectations go.

As children grow we add daily or weekly chores for them to accomplish. We show them how to do the chore and may even help them a time or two, but the goal is to have a task they can complete on their own. This builds independence and self-esteem.

If you have older children, engage them in teaching the younger one how to perform the chore. This builds feelings of accomplishment in both children. It is important to teach our children to work together with people of all ages and abilities. In doing so, they can learn patience and compassion for others.

Begin teaching in the home, then branch out to your church family, your school and community. Many churches and communities have “service days” each year. Involve your whole family. Make it a tradition that your family takes part every year together. The picture above is of my sister and two of her grandchildren on a Memorial Day when our extended family worked together to clean up and beautify our family cemetery plot. She is teaching her grandchildren to enjoy serving others. The kids loved it!

The best way to teach servanthood is to model it in your everyday life. Your children are watching you every day as you work around your home and care for your family. If you exhibit a poor attitude and a complaining spirit, don’t be surprised if that is the attitude your children develop.

Studies link mental and physical benefits to service to others. Don’t forget this important part of training your children. You will find great satisfaction in working together as a family to serve others.

Here are a few organizations that give ideas for teaching the joy of serving others to children:

http://www.teachingkidstocare.com/caring.html

http://www.kidskorps.org/

Life Insurance is For the Living…Not the Dead – guest post by Dan Morrison

Dan 2012 LA My father passed away at the age of 56 in October of 1987. He had, for the majority of his working life, sold health and life insurance. He was nominally successful at it, but neglected to purchase any for himself. I am unaware if he chose this due to neglect or that his overall health prevented him from obtaining any coverage except a burial policy.

Needless to say, his failure to obtain adequate coverage made it extremely difficult for his wife (my step-mother) to financially survive. She, of course, had income from his residuals and survivors benefits from Social Security, but the financial stress of his final illness and his death cast an un-needed pall over his already grieving family.

Life insurance is not for the dead, it is for the living.

I am not a licensed attorney, but I do know the critical importance of adequate life insurance to provide for a spouse and surviving children. Life insurance equals “options” for the surviving family members, more so if there are surviving special needs children. I would imagine that a married couple with a special needs child should have, in addition to adequate life insurance, a Last Will and Testament that stipulates, in writing, how care for the special needs child will be set up in the event of a common disaster.

Common sense and due diligence dictate that legal documents be done by a qualified, licensed attorney who has experience in estate planning and for provision concerning the myriad issues with a special needs child. A qualified attorney can be most helpful not only with wills, but also a Durable Power of Attorney for each spouse, a Health Care Directive for each spouse, a Health Care Power of Attorney and a Special Needs Trust.

A wise plan for parents of a special needs child must include adequate life insurance and proper drafting of legal documents to insure the ongoing care of the surviving children. There is obviously a cost to good legal counsel and obtaining insurance, but the peace of mind it provides is priceless.

For further information you can contact your state’s insurance commissioner. The local bar association is another option for obtaining a referral. Don’t forget that some large church denominations have resources such as Lutheran’s Thrivent Financial www.thrivent.com and the Southern Baptist GuideStone Financial Resources www.guidestone.org. Also, Financial Advisor Dave Ramsey has information on insurance on his website www.daveramsey.com.

Please don’t neglect this vitally important aspect of caring for the future needs of your child.