Fidgets: Quiet Ways for Fidgety Kids to Release Energy

 

Fidgets have become increasingly popular both at home and at school.  Used properly, they can be a great tool.

Some kids are in constant motion.  They are moving, tapping, bouncing, touching, or talking.  Often when these are occurring in a group or a classroom, it becomes a disruption to learning around them.  This is when parents and educators need to come up with a creative toolbox of quiet fidgets for children to use to burn that energy.

Fidgets are all the rage right now.  They are all over the news, as well as schools.  As a result fidgets are also getting a bad rap and are being banned.  But there are many more types of fidgets, beyond the fidget spinner that is in every store.

What is the Problem?

Certain children, such as those with autism or ADHD, may be in constant motion.  Asking them to sit quietly in a seat is impossible.  They are kicking, squirming in their seat, ripping paper, or walking around the room.  They may talk a lot while sitting or make other noises.

Why Does This Occur?

It is thought that impaired motor control centers in the brain are the cause of fidgety, hyperactive behavior.  Impulse-control problems also play a part.  The hyperactive child is unable to inhibit the impulse to move around.

How to Help

Parents and educators need to provide physical outlets that let these children  release pent-up energy and improve focus.

Types of Fidgets

fidget spinner

Fidgets are really anything that can be quietly squished or handled. Not having to focus on staying absolutely still conserves the child’s energy for focusing on class lessons or other activities.  First year special education teachers, it’s definitely worth collecting some of these for your classroom.  Here, are my recommended soothing, effective fidgets for children who focus best when they are chewing, squeezing, picking, or  spinning.

Wikki Stix

wikki stix fidget

Wikki Stix are a combination of wax and yarn that your child can bend, twist, roll and sculpt to create art.  They are durable, cannot be pulled apart, and can be cut.  They help with fine motor skills and sensory stimulation, and are great to strengthen little fingers.

Silly Putty

silly putty fidget

Silly Putty is a tried and true inexpensive favorite fidget.  It can be squished, pulled and squashed which provides lots of handheld stimulation.  There are different brands such as TheraPutty and Power Putty which have different resistance levels depending on the child’s hand strength.

Dog Tag Chewies

Dog Tag Chewies fidget

If your child is always chewing things such as nails, hair, or objects than these dog tags provide a more sanitary and appropriate alternative.  They are a discreet alternative that provide oral stimulation and tactile.  The chewies are made of silicone that is free of BPA and can be put in the dishwasher for cleaning.

Palm Weight

palm weight fidget

The soft beanbag-like pillow with a hook-and-loop strap fits in the palm of your hand, or on the back of your hand, and is then secured by a strap. The weight steadies and calms hands. It provides proprioceptive input and sensory feedback to help encourage proper writing position and better handwriting. The weight calms fidgety hands so children and adults can concentrate on writing. The weight has just the right input to help improve handwriting and boost writing skills.,

Cheww Stixx

chewie stixx fidget

Children who chew pencils and erasers often don’t realize they are doing it, it can be a dangerous habit.   Cheww Stixx are oral fidgets that fit on the end of a pencil and satisfy the need to chew.  they come in lots of colors and designs, are free of BPA, and can be washed in the dishwasher.

Fiddle Linx

FiddleLinks Fidget

This was designed by a hand therapist and has interlocking and rotating pieces to provide light stimulation and strengthen fingers.  It allows the children to keep their eye on the teacher, and is a good choice for the older student.

Ziggy Pasta

ziggy pasta fidget

Ziggy Pasta is tons of colorful noodles that slide through your fingers as you squeeze.  It provides a soothing sensation for a child that is highly sensitive to different textures.  It does not make any noise and is a favorite choice of teachers.

Denim Pocket Lap Pad

denim lap pad fidget

Weighted blankets are great choices for schildren with sensory processing disorder and ADHD but not a great choice in the classroom. This smaller version allows the child to keep it on their lap at their desk and also slide their hands in the pockets.  It provides calming pressure and helps remind the child stay in their seat when restless.  It is a bit expensive but is durable and will last a long time.

Boinks

boinks fidget

Boinks are a small tube of nylon with a marble sealed inside.  You can squeeze or slide the marble back and forth, bend it, fold it, squeeze the sleeve together and roll the marble like shaking a bell. 

OVER TO YOU

Does your child fidget?  Have you or a teacher tried any of these fidgets?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.  I’d love to hear from you!

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Executive Functioning: The # 1 skill needed at school

child at school

The #1 Skill Children Need to Be Successful

We all want our children to succeed at school.  But that is not always an easy task.  You may wonder, what is the #1 skill needed for my child to succeed at school?  The answer is Executive Functioning.

What does this really mean though?

It’s mentioned a whole lot nowadays, but why?  Is it really important?

Yes, because executive functions comprise the essential self-regulating skills that we all rely on everyday to accomplish just about everything.  Executive functions help us to plan and organize, learn from our mistakes, make decisions, control our emotions and impulsivity, and shift between thoughts and situations.  Kids start their day by relying on executive functions to get dressed for school and rely on it for every other task until bedtime.

Children who have poor executive functioning skills, often times this goes hand in hand with ADHD, can be quite disorganized.  Their backpacks are an explosion of papers.  Their school desks have piles of garbage in and around their desk.  Homework agendas are not filled out.  They take forever getting dressed, and completing one chore can often take a really, really long time.  Long term assignments are left until last minute, as is studying for a big test.

Well there is help.  And many learning specialists have devised strategies that can help students with poor executive functioning.  Improving organization skills can be achieved through specific strategies and alternate learning styles.

Here are some skills to help students, and parents, get that homework done as well as some other tasks around the house!

Checklists

The steps necessary for completing a task are often not obvious to kids with executive dysfunction.  Defining them clearly ahead of time makes a task less daunting and more achievable. Following a checklist  also minimizes the mental and emotional strain many kids with executive dysfunction experience while trying to make decisions.

With a checklist, kids can focus their mental energy on the task at hand.

You can make a checklist for nearly anything.  For example, posting a checklist of the morning routine can be a sanity saver: make your bed, brush your teeth, get dressed, have breakfast, grab your lunch, get your backpack.  Click MORNING ROUTINE task cards to grab a free copy of a morning checklist.

Set time limits

When making a checklist, many experts recommend assigning a time limit for each step, particularly if it is a bigger, longer-term project.  Talking about the steps to create a poster timeline project for example, requires research, finding pictures, gathering materials, creating a rough draft, and the final draft.  Discussing the time needed for each part can help the student see the bigger picture.

Use that planner

It is crucial that students learn to use a planner.  Most schools require students to use a planner these days, but they often don’t teach children how to use them.  It will also not be obvious to a child who is overwhelmed by—or uninterested in—organization and planning. This is a bad combination because kids who struggle with executive functioning issues have poor working memory, which means it is hard for them to remember things like homework assignments. And working memory issues tend to snowball. Fortunately many teachers also use online platforms and their websites to post homework assignments and test dates.  This comes in handy when that planner or agenda comes home blank, again.

Spell out the rationale

While a child is learning new skills, it is essential that he understand the rationale behind them, or things like planning might feel like a waste of time or needless energy drain.  Kids with poor organizational skills often feel pressured by their time commitments and responsibilities.  Explaining the rationale behind a particular strategy makes a child much more likely to commit to doing it.

Explore different ways of learning

Because everyone learns differently, it is good practice to use a variety of strategies to help kids with executive dysfunction understand—and remember—important concepts. Using graphic organizers as a reference for visual learners is one example.

Other kids remember things better if there is a motion supporting it, like counting on their fingers, which is good for visual and tactile learners. Younger children benefit from self-talking to reduce anxiety and Social Stories, which are narratives about a child successfully performing a certain task or learning a particular skill.

Establish a routine

This is particularly important for older kids, who typically struggle more to get started with their homework.  Check my post of the ultimate after school routine for some ideas.

Use rewards

For younger kids, you can try putting a reward system in place.  Something like a star chart, where kids see the connection between practicing their skills and working towards a reward, works very well.

For older kids who aren’t as motivated by things like rewards, parents should still be encouraging.  Parents need to be checking in with older kids.  Ask how things are going or offer help. Tell them you appreciate all the hard work they’re doing. School is really hard for a lot of kids and they should be recognized for their effort.

We use our organizational skills every day in a million ways, and they are essential to our success in school and later as adults. Following these tips should help to put your child on the right track.

OVER TO YOU

Does your child struggle with executive functioning? Do they seem to be unorganized? Let me know in the comments below – I’d love to hear from you!

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I send out blogs like this often, offering my expertise and useful tips for parents about all things related to child learning, ADHD,  reading instruction.  and the occasional recipe or DIY project.

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IEP Meeting: 10 Questions Every Parent Should Ask

iep meeting

Preparing to attend an IEP Meeting? These are 10 questions every parent should ask the team in an IEP meeting!

I want this post to provide support for families and be able to express myself clearly.  I have served as a special education teacher for many years in the school system.  I have sat in on hundreds of IEPs and intervention meetings. They are a regular part of my work week.  And they don’t have to be scary or intimidating!

Why would I say that?  Well it provides a chance for families and all staff that works with that child to communicate and brainstorm.  It is a chance to create a plan to help children who need support.  It provides a chance to create a truly individualized plan to meet the students’ needs.

An IEP meeting is a chance for school personnel and parents to communicate.  The one thing I say to every parent before an IEP meeting is to be prepared.  Make sure you have done your homework.  An IEP meeting can be an amazingly positive experience if everyone is able to communicate clearly.

IEP meeting

A FEW THINGS TO DO BEFORE AN IEP MEETING:

-observe in your child’s current classroom setting if allowed

-reread their expiring IEP if they already have one…..do you feel their academic and behavioral goals have been met? Be prepared to share YOUR thoughts.

-make a list of concerns and a list of accomplishments.  What is going WELL? What is still a struggle?

-research the academic standards for your child’s grade level…….consider where they currently fall in terms of those standards.  They may need support still, and that’s TOTALLY fine.  But the more you’ve thought about these long term goals….the more prepared you’ll be to speak to them and to listen to the team.

-be prepared to ask questions (a lot of them)

iep meeting

IEP Meetings: 10 Questions Every Parent Should Ask

  1. How can I contact you? Ask each member of the IEP Meeting Team the BEST way to contact them.  Let them know you’ll be checking in regularly.
  2. When is a good time to have an informal conversation about my child’s progress? Teachers are more than willing to chat and meet about your child.  However their day is often very busy, so it is best to ask them what time would work the best.
  3. What do you see as my child’s strengths? How can I support and encourage them? An IEP meeting should not be all about weaknesses.  Ask how you can support your child’s strengths and passions.  These strengths and passions are what will make your kiddo successful as an adult.
  4. What type of progress can I expect to see? What will this look like? The great thing about an IEP meeting is that you get the input of specialists.  But that’s also the toughest at times.  Acronyms, teacher speak, developmental milestones….it can be VERY overwhelming.  After each IEP section, ask the team…….what should this LOOK like? How long will it be before I see progress? What are the signs that we are moving in the right directions? What should I watch out for?
  5. What can I do at home to support our goals? For students to make the most progress (emotionally or academically), goals needs to be fluid between school and home.  Ask the team…..what can I do at home? Ask for specific suggestions.
  6. Which of these goals are the top priority? Between behavioral goals and academic goals…..by the end of an IEP meeting, you’ll feel like your head is spinning.  An important thing to ask…..which of these is top priority? Is it behavioral (transitioning to school, for instance)? Is it academic (phonemic awareness….you need to read before you can write or comprehend text)?  Ask the team.  That way, you’ll know what to focus on in discussions about school.
  7. How will we measure progress? How will we communicate about this with my child? Progress towards goals (both academic and behavioral) can be measured in many ways.  Will the team be using test scores? A running record with observations of the child? A tally system of behaviors being exhibited (or not exhibited)?
  8. What do these supports look like on a daily basis? How will my child’s day look? Academic and behavior supports can be provided in MANY ways.  Will the supports be a pull-out model (student removed from the class for small group support) or a push-in model (the support staff blends in to the classroom for a period of time)?   You should know EXACTLY what your child’s day looks like!
  9. Who will provide these supports? How will my child’s classroom teacher be provided with resources and assistance to implement these supports? The best thing about having a support team in place? Everyone helps EACH OTHER (that includes you mom and dad)! Ask questions.  How can you support the teacher? How can the speech therapist support you?
  10. What would YOU do if this were YOUR child? An IEP meeting can often be all business.  In the end….what would I want to know? If this were your own family member, what would you suggest?  Trust me, you’ll get some pretty honest answers.

iep meeting

IEP meeting questions Poster (1)

Are you looking for more information about IEP’s and 504 Plans?

Here are some fantastic resources

What is the difference between and IEP and 504 Plan?

Why you might need a 504 Plan

10 Common Mistakes Parents Make at IEP meetings

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Why is my child so Angry? ADHD and anger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have a child or student who can get angry, frustrated, or even explosive? Maybe they often need help calming down.  Children with ADHD can have frequent meltdowns and need lots of help and coaching to get back on track. I am super excited about the download I have created and am ready to share with you.   From many years of teaching children with special needs, and parenting three children, I have gathered 10 tips and resources to help calm the angry child.

[emaillocker id=”212″] [/emaillocker]

 

ARMED WITH KNOWLEDGE

I really believe in trying to be proactive before big problems arise.  This means becoming better at catching the “build up” or knowing what the “triggers” are for that child.  It is best to be educated as a caregiver and have concrete strategies you can easily put in place.  This download can be hung up in your kitchen, classroom, anywhere that allows you to glance quickly and remind yourself of some things to help.  This can be hard in the heat of an argument.

Below is a resource which may be helpful to some of you.

 

The Explosive Child by Ross W Greene

 

Remember that outbursts are always the result of the child needing something. The reasons vary and there are many layers involved with teaching and parenting an angry child.

 

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Homework Help for the ADHD Child- Part 2

Starting homework

Getting any child to start homework can be hard, but getting a child with ADHD to start can sometimes seem impossible.  They may be wanting to play video games, watch TV, run around outside, but at some point they need to start.  Try to ask the question “What do you hope to accomplish today?”  instead of “You need to start now.”  Question 1 requires an actual answer and is constructive, where as question 2 can easily be answered with “No”, and a possible tantrum.

Ask leading questions that force your child to think about the big picture and problem solve.  Asking “Did you study for tomorrow’s test?” may very well lead to a fight.  Instead you can ask “What should we do first to get ready for tomorrow’s test?”  Or you may ask “What events this week might get in our way of studying and homework?”  This forces them to use executive functioning and plan out their time.

Time Management

Kids with ADHD have alot of trouble estimating time. They may think it will only take them 15 minutes to get ready in the morning, where in reality it can take closer to an hour.  How many mornings are spent screaming hurry up when the grown up realizes they are going to miss the bus, but they think they’ve got it all under control?

It is a good idea once they finish the task at home, regardless of how long it took, to actually discuss with them the length of time.  Then discuss what were the events that caused slow downs and strategies to help minimize those the next time.

     The long term assignment

It’s only a matter of time before the first long term assignment for school comes home.  Again this can be challenging due to the organization and time management required to be successful.  The key is to help your child break down the assignment into manageable chunks.  A tangible reward such as several Pokemon cards at each milestone can help turn abstract time management into something concrete.

 

Talk with your child

The biggest thing to remember is that you are on the same side as your child, remind them of that.  You are not the enemy and you really do want them to succeed.  Help them to put words to their feelings.  If you notice they are very frustrated doing math homework, you can say “I see you are getting frustrated while trying to figure that out.  What can I do to help you?”  You may get screamed at, but try your best to keep your cool.  Sometimes just your physical presence is enough for them to know you care.

For more ADHD resources see ADHD and the new school yearADHD 504 PlanHomework Help Part 1

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Homework Help for the ADHD child- Part 1

Homework Battles

So the first week of school has come to a close.  For most kids the routine of homework and studying is not in full swing yet.  That makes this the perfect time to get a head start and set your student up for success.  A common story heard from almost all ADHD households is how much homework is disliked.

Most families can easily remember the endless nagging, arguing, searching for missing assignments, and endless hours of wasted time that lead to utter frustration.  Your student is smart and capable.  You see that they aren’t reaching their potential.  And the daily homework battle is a constant reminder of your child’s challenges and struggles.

Homework Police

It is absolutely no fun taking on the job of nagging and prodding your child on a daily basis.  You don’t want to hear it, your child doesn’t want to hear it, and it really isn’t helping them in the long run.  This will probably lead to larger battles and more trouble in the long run, as homework resentment builds up.

Setting up for Success

What your child will really benefit from is having their parent set up routine and structure so that they can improve their executive function ability.  The goal is for them to complete their homework, independently, without the nagging.  The parents’ role is to ask questions, provide guidance, and support.  So you may be asking “How do I do this?”

Organize

What you do not want to do each year is wait and see how it goes.  This is not taking a very proactive approach, and you want to be able to set your student up for success.  Make a plan before the school year starts, and then adjust as the year goes on.

Talk with your child about what worked last year and what did not.  Discuss what needs to change this year. Remember that no parent or child loves the constant nagging or arguing during homework.

Here are some practical organizing tips:

  1.  Sunday night should be a time to get set up for the week.  Plan out the week activities, discuss upcoming assignments, know which days are gym or instrument days.
  2. Homework folders for all ages are really helpful.  In middle school teachers will not often set them up, but you can do so at home.  Incoming assignments go on one side, completed assignments go on the other.
  3. Have a staging area in the house where your child can lay things out at night for the morning.  This includes a packed backpack, lunch, shoes, gym bag, instrument, sports equipment.  In the morning it will be a big relief to not run around looking for shoes!

Set up a homework routine

Homework routines are important but it is not a one size fits all.  I recommend having several areas throughout the house that can accommodate a child doing homework.  This can be in the kitchen, in a study or other quiet room, maybe a spot on the porch.  Sometimes a change of scenery for a child will help them complete the assignment. I often find that having your child have a snack first helps to boost their mood and blood sugar.  Burning off some energy with a short playdate can also help them to focus later on for homework.  Have your child reflect on what has worked in the past, and what hasn’t.  They should be part of creating a routine.

Squirmy, restless kids

For the child who just cannot sit still to do their homework, do not embarrass and point out the negative behavior.  Instead try and redirect that energy.  The spinner fidgets have been all the rage this year, but there are many other types of fidgets.  Take some time to research and try different types to see what type of sensory input would be helpful.

 

Next up, Part 2– Getting started, estimating time, and procrastination

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A Back to School Checklist- ADHD 504 Plan

Back to school is such a busy time of year.  You are buying school supplies, new clothes, attending Open Houses, sports physical, meetings and more.  But if you are the parent of a child with ADHD then you are also thinking about whether or not to ask for a 504 Plan.

What is a 504 Plan?

A 504 Plan is a written management plan you create, together with the school, that addresses how the school will accommodate the needs of your child. The plan also ensures your child will be able to participate safely in daily classroom and school activities. (This plan is covered under the American with Disabilities Act, so you have a legal right to have a 504 plan).

Review your child’s current 504 Plan

Children change each school year.  They master certain skills while facing new challenges.  The 504 plan should reflect their current status and the accommodations needed to succeed.  Go ahead and schedule€€ a team meeting before the start of the school year.

Bring copies of all educational assessments, report cards, notes from the teacher,  individual testing and any notable assignments. The purpose is to illustrate your child’s current achievement levels. Let the team know which accommodations last year were helpful and which ones were not.  Discuss your goals for your child and what additional accommodations you would like.

Organize with your child

Visit your local office supply store to put together a system that will help contain the mess.  I have found for the middle school age that a large binder that zippers shut to be ideal.  Within this binder you have a zippered pencil pouch full of supplies, folders, loose leaf paper, a copy of their schedule and locker combination.

Stock up on supplies

While you are at the office supply store go ahead and stock up on essentials.  August has the best deals of the year.  There will be lost scissors, notebooks, folders and glue sticks come January.  It’s best to be prepared.

Create a plan for after school activities

Some children need a chance to burn off that extra energy.  Signing up for swimming, gymnastics, or soccer may be best.

Other children need a chance to practice focusing.  activities such as karate or chess club may help.

Find a homework helper

Some children will need additional help, or just help from someone other than mom or dad.  Find a resource list of tutors early on in the year.  This can be from the school, the Office of Special Education within the district, or even online services such as Tutor.com and Care.com

Review medication

If your child was off of medicine for the summer, you will want to discuss when to restart with the doctor.  Some medicines can take one to two weeks to build up in the system.

Set goals with your child

Sit down with your child to discuss goals.  Some can have a social focus, such as make two new friends this year.  One by December and another by May.

Other goals can be academic.  They will prepare and study for all quizzes and tests.

Organizational goals can be related to writing in their homework agenda daily.

 

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