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Reality and misconceptions about helping kids improve their social skills

May 24, 2014 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Whenever I have the opportunity to speak with fellow Camp Directors who run camps designed for neurotypical children the topic often leads to discussing their campers who present with social-cognitive challenges. In other words, their campers who struggle socially in the camp setting.

Through my discussions with camp colleagues as well as professionals who work with children who present with social skill challenges I often hear that many parents are not interested in sending their child to a summer camp that is designed to meet their child’s needs. In some cases the child may not want to go to a camp designed to meet their needs as they understandably want to see themselves as no different than their neurotypical peers despite the fact that they are frequently met with rejection from the same peers who’s acceptance they crave. While these parents know there is a risk their child may be unsuccessful in the camp setting they believe that the best way for their child to improve their social skills and provide their child with a feeling of normalcy is through having their child participate in recreational settings (like summer camp) with their neurotypical peers. Often this well intended approach backfires for the child, particularly as they get older and social expectations increase. This led me to question as to where this widely held misconception comes from that children who present with social skill challenges can improve their social skills by simply being around neurotypical peers. Read the rest of this entry →

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Music, Magic and Our “Emotional Brains”

October 11, 2013 in Special Education Articles by Jess

I have long been a believer that no one therapy, and no one therapist can do it “all”.  This has become even clearer to me as I have worked with both speech and music therapists in treating children with deficits in social skills.

As occupational therapists we are acutely aware that individuals with various learning disabilities, including autism,  are often extremely sensitive to noise and that sensory overload is common.  These persons tend to often react to even the most minimal of stimuli as if they were being bombarded with multiple stimuli.

Why does this happen and what can we do to help these individuals modulate their reactions? Read the rest of this entry →

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iPad Apps That Teach Social Skills To Kids

December 4, 2012 in App Review by Jess

Basic social skills may not come easy to some children. However, iPad has a number of applications on the market today that can help teach children social skills in a non-threatening and easy to learn environment. The following are the top iPad applications to help your child interact in social and independent settings.

Stories2Learn

Stories2Learn offers parents and teachers the tools to implement stories utilizing audio messages, text and photos. The stories can then be used to develop the person’s social skills. For example, if someone is learning the concept of taking turns, trying to improve eye contact, sharing or other social activities, the concepts can be showcased in a story that the parent or teach designed within a matter of minutes. The designer can also add their own dialogue and audio to correlate along with the photographs. Read the rest of this entry →

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Tips for Building a Relationship with Your Child with Special Needs

October 2, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

At Ramapo for Children, our work is grounded in the conviction that children of all abilities seek the same things: to learn, have friends, feel valued, and experience success. When the demands of a child’s environment are misaligned with his or her social and emotional skills, frustrating and disruptive behaviors occur. To help children succeed—whether they are on the spectrum, have a learning disability, or simply don’t yet have the tools to control their outbursts—the adults in their lives need to help children align their behaviors with their aspirations.

With 90 years of experience, Ramapo for Children has developed a unique ability to create inclusive environments that promote positive behavioral change, foster skill development, and help support learning and personal growth. As we have honed our expertise in working on behalf of children who face obstacles to learning, we have seen that personal relationships are frequently the catalyst for motivating behavioral change and, therefore, a key component of good teaching at home and in the classroom. Once rapport is developed, a budding relationship between an adult and child becomes as reinforcing as any tangible reward used to manage behaviors and teach new skills. Read the rest of this entry →

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Social skills in deaf or hard of hearing children

September 19, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing cannot hear all or certain sounds due to an inability to detect these sounds within their ear. They can communicate different ways which include manually and orally or both. Some people with a hearing impairment wear hearing aids or have a cochlear implant in order to aid in the hearing process.

The causes of a hearing impairment or deafness include genetics, diseases, medication, or trauma to the ear in some way. Parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing have options in regards to their education. Their child can be in a residential school, which is strictly for children with hearing loss. They could also be in a public school and receive special education services, or they can be in a mainstreamed classroom with no special education modifications or accommodations. Read the rest of this entry →

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Crisis Plans in the Classroom

June 26, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

More and more, schools are pushing towards inclusive environments. Classrooms are a mixture of typical children, bright children, and children with a variety of skill deficits and developmental delays. Many of our more atypical students struggle with what can be considered moderate to severe mental health issues. Whereas many of these students are cognitively capable of managing the curriculum, the emotional and social aspects of school are more overwhelming for them than their more typical peers. Read the rest of this entry →

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Addressing Bullying in an IEP

May 7, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Doug Goldberg

As a Parent the first reaction you have when someone is bullying your child is to emulate your best Al Capone impression from the Untouchabales.

I want you to get this guy where he breathes! I want you to find this Eliot Ness, I want him dead! I want his family dead! I want his house burned to the ground! (I have edited this quote for language and shortened it but you get the idea)

While this might be your first reaction, this also happens to be the worst possible course of action. When your child is being bullied the number one issue should be your child, not the other child’s punishment. This is an extremely hard pill to swallow but is necessary for your child’s safety and well-being. Children with disabilities are very often the target of bullying but these same children will most likely have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) which can be used as an effective way to address the bullying. Before addressing the issue in an IEP the following steps should be taken in writing: Read the rest of this entry →

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Change Your Ways!

April 1, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

For most of us, the drive to change our own behavior emerges on or around on January 1st with the dawn of a new year and new possibilities for self improvement. Loose a little weight, stop smoking, exercise more, and eat leafy greens seem to be among the favorites. Most of us are pretty conservative and only select 1 (maybe 2) goals to tackle each year. After all, we are only human and it takes a lot of thinking to change a pattern or ingrained routine. If you’re diligent and work hard, you might see a change but for most of us….it’s an exercise in futility somewhere around March 1st. Why does that happen? How do we lose our “oomph” and why do we slip back into our old, familiar ways. Why can’t we learn to change our ways? These are all questions that we ought to be asking, but rarely do. Instead, we wait until the following year and begin the process all over again. Why? Because changing a behavior is REALLY hard, even when highly motivated to do so.  Read the rest of this entry →

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Does My Son Want Friends?

March 13, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Doug Goldberg

When I pick my son up from school I always ask him the same question, “How was school today?” This is always answered the same way, “It was good.” When I ask him to expand on his answer he will tell me about all of the academics he worked on, what therapies he went to, and whether they had PE, computer lab or went to the library that day. It’s a fine answer, but not really what I’m looking for. My follow up question is always, “Who did you talk to today?” For the last few months this has been answered with, “Nobody.” Really, you went the entire day without speaking to anyone? “Well, a couple of kids said hi to me, so I said hi back,” he would reply. That’s it!!! Read the rest of this entry →

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Students at Sierra Academy of Scottsdale Learn Valuable Lessons from Four-Legged ‘Therapists’

February 17, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

A new breed of therapist is helping special-needs students at Sierra Academy of Scottsdale master socialization skills and other classrooms lessons. The therapists – three of them, in fact – are dutiful, enthusiastic and, best of all, work for affection and a few tasty treats.

Three therapy dogs and their owners make much-anticipated weekly visits to Sierra Academy of Scottsdale to “teach students sensitivity, self-control, compassion and the importance of treating others – pets as well as people – with respect,” said academy director Debra Watland.  Read the rest of this entry →

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