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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Video Games to Help Improve Executive Functioning

video games

A little extra screen time spent on video games can actually help improve executive functioning in children with ADHD.  The following post contains some of the best choices in gaming for your child.

Executive function, the skills we need to plan, organize, and regulate behavior, can naturally be developed by the use of games.

video games

Go and Play Your Video Games!

Honestly in the past this was something I would NEVER say to my children.  But then I started looking at what was the allure of video games? Why do children with ADHD seem to love video games, to the point of missing meals and not going to the bathroom?  The utter concentration employed during the game, the ability to fail at a task and keep trying until they beat that level.

Games contain the ideal ingredient for motivation.  They are attractive, take a realistic amount of energy and the chance of success are good. The feedback is immediate as are cognitive rewards. So then I wondered, How can this  translate to completing homework for students with executive functioning difficulties?

As kids work through levels of the game, they learn what mistakes they made and to not do them again.  They know the goal, or endgame.  The child needs to develop their own strategy to beat the level, and they receive immediate feedback.

When it comes to homework, the resistance for some children with ADHD and executive functioning difficulties may be the lack of clear short-term goals with purposeful objectives. There is an absence of immediate feedback and reinforcement.

super mario bros wii

 

Video games such as Mario Kart Wii, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and New Super Mario Bros. Wii help to exercise working memory skills, one of the key executive functions.

zelda

 

Legend of Zelda

Players attempt to save kingdoms, battle monsters and follow a story line. They use flexible thinking, planning and working memory skills as they navigate the game. They need to solve puzzles, learn how to master swordplay and deal with other characters. All of this goes on with distractions in the background.

minecraft

Minecraft

Minecraft is a video game that your child can customize. Players must figure out ways to use virtual blocks to build communities. They also must mine the materials they need to make tools, food, clothing and whatever else they need to sustain their environment. Multiple modes of game play give players a chance to see how different plans pan out. If one doesn’t work, players can rebuild from scratch.

 

portal 2

 Portal

Portal is set in a 3D world called Aperture Science Enrichment Center. Players work together to get around obstacles that keep characters from getting out of Aperture. Tasks get harder as players improve. They range from putting an object in the right place in order to open a door, to getting through multiple portals in a short time. Schools often use Portal 2 because it’s a fun way to think about spatial reasoning and basic physics.

scribblenauts

 Scribblenauts

Scribblenauts is much less action packed than some other video games. But it uses critical reasoning in a unique way. Players have to solve the spatially oriented obstacles the hero encounters as he goes through the levels. And they do it by literally writing the solution and having it appear. Players can write simple things, such as “ropes.” Or they can write crazier things, such as “Yeti the snowman-like creature on a lawnmower.

 

sim city

SimCity

The object of SimCity and SimCity Creator is to build a civilization from the ground up. Players have to plan and anticipate what the city will need as it evolves. A society that begins with hunters can quickly grow into one that needs factories and school. Players need to know zoning laws and municipal codes as they build. They also must use problem-solving skills to find ways to meet the challenges of supply and demand.

Computer Games

There are a number of computer games thought to help develop certain specific brain functions such as memory and attention. Here are some online sources of “brain games” to consider:

Fit Brains

Lumosity

Managing fantasy sports teams requires executive skills, along with task initiation and time management.

OVER TO YOU

Does your child struggle with executive functioning? Do they love video games?  What are you thoughts on the topic, I would love to hear.

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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!

ENJOYED THIS POST?

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.

If you sign up for my email updates, I’ll send exclusive content straight to your inbox!

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5 Toys to teach Alphabet Letters and Sounds (Phonemic Awareness)

 

letters sounds phonemic awareness alphabet

The new preschool year has just started.  Some of you may be thinking, how can I help my child learn to read at home?  What are the most important skills they will need for kindergarten?  They need to know their letters and the sounds.  This is so important and the basis for taking the next step when learning to read.  There are so many toys on the market, but how do you know if they are good?

I have rounded up some of my favorite toys to help teach letters and their sounds, also known as phonemic awareness in teacher talk.  These toys are a great way to practice and have fun while doing so.

5 Toys to Teach Letters and Sounds

letters sounds phonemic awareness alphabet

Fridge phonics magnet letter set.  This toy was around 12 years ago when my oldest was toddling around, and is still one of the best.  It has nice big letters, easy for little hands to grasp.  Press the letter and they can hear the sound and how it’s used in a word.

 

letters sounds phonemic awareness alphabet

Learn the Alphabet Dough Mats.  Kids use dough to form each letter right on the mats.  This helps to boost letter recognition & fine motor skills as they create!  The set comes with 26 mats.

letters sounds phonemic awareness alphabet

Alpha Catch Phonics Game.  This is a great game to involve some physical activity.  You take turns tossing the ball and say the letter or sound, or both!  The same idea can be used for sight words.

letters sounds phonemic awareness alphabet

Uppercase Alphabet and Number Dough Stampers.  Kids love playdough.  This activity reinforces their letters and numbers, while having them practice fine motor skills.  Ask them to find a particular letter, make the sound, make a pattern with two letters, the options are endless.

letters sounds phonemic awareness alphabet

Alphabet Marks the Spot.  The kid alphabet version of Twister! Call a letter or sound, kids run to the spot.  Watch them get all twisted up!  You would start with letter names, progress to sounds, and then a word that starts with the sound.

This should help on the road to preparing for school.  Check out my link on how to encourage reading with your little ones!

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5 Tips to Encourage Reading

 

5 tips to encourage readers

 

I am a reading specialist and special educator by profession.  I have spent many years working with small groups of children, trying to encourage them as readers.  Most of these children are 2 or more years behind with their reading.  As a reading specialist and special educator I have received a TON of training on how to teach reading, how readers learn, and the science of reading.  The fact remains that the best way to learn to read, is to develop a love of reading.  Today I am going to offer 5 tips to help encourage a love of reading at any age.

5 tips to encourage readers

  1.  Introduce new and engaging books.  Libraries have plenty of choices.  But have you thought to look at garage sales, consignment sales, or trading with friends?  Try and make a weekly trip to your local library to constantly have a rotating collection of stories.
  2. Create special experiences that involve reading.  My children look forward to Daddy reading time each evening, where they cuddle up in bed and listen to him read a chapter book.  My toddler loves when we lay out a quilt and pull up a bin of books to read and look through.
  3. Children should be encouraged to self select books.  Yes, even your toddlers.  Keep the books at their eye level, where they can pull books out and decide what they want to look through.  Reading should be done both independently and supported.  Toddlers learn about concepts such as turning pages, direction of print, by looking through books.  It is important to allow toddlers to explore books and develop an interest in reading.
  4. Children should hear and see a variety of people reading.  This includes different members of your immediate household.  It also includes other family and friends you may be visiting or trips to the local story time at the library.  Children should understand that reading is important to everyone around them.
  5. Create a special reading nook.  It doesn’t have to be fancy, but don’t you love a place to cozy up to a story?  Maybe you have a few special blankets to cuddle when reading, or a special little chair next to a basket of favorite books.  Make it inviting and comfortable.  Check out some of my pins for creative reading areas 

5 tips to encourage readers

How have you encouraged reading in your home?

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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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