Archive for the ‘ Behavior ’ Category

Does More Preschool = More (Wrong) ADHD Diagnoses?

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

In principle, no. But if a preschool environment is not designed with developmental principles in mind, and ADHD criteria are tossed around without regard to developmental level, then we could see artificial diagnoses made – maybe a lot of them.

Drs. Stephen P. Hinshaw and Richard M. Scheffler predict (in an Op-Ed in the New York Times) that such a scenario can lead to an epidemic of incorrect diagnoses of ADHD in preschoolers. What are the key factors parents should thing about? Here’s a few tips:

MAKE SURE A PRESCHOOL IS JUST THAT: PRE-SCHOOL

There are tremendous developmental benefits to attending preschool. These are achieved when they are designed with developmental principles in mind. That means, simply, that kids should be playing a lot of the time.

Play includes all kinds of activities, including: arts & crafts, music, using blocks to build things, pretend play, running around, and engaging in playground types of activities. Wait, what about learning letters and numbers and developing advanced reading skills and mathematical proficiency? That will come … when they get older (the idea is to promote academic readiness, not academics). For decades, we’ve known that early learning – the academic readiness that we are shooting for in preschool – operates very much through the body. Both gross motor and fine motor skills are primary for brain development and provide the sensory mechanisms underlying cognitive exploration and innovation. All that exploration sets the stage for fundamental cognitive skills that will be used later to master reading and math and writing. Consider this: the simple act of learning to copy figures in toddlerhood is a significant predictor of later academic performance in kindergarten (even after controlling for “cognitive” skills). So while some “academics” can be introduced in the preschool years, the savvy educators know how to do this in measure, and focus on the ways that preschoolers should be spending their time.

Keep in mind that interaction with adults and other kids is also critical for both social and cognitive development. It’s more important that they are being read to, than “reading” on their own. Their vocabularies are expanding tremendously but so much of this happens naturally in conversation and via planned reading group activities (rather than drills to master letters and words). Kids need to express themselves socially, and begin to learn some age-appropriate rudiments of self-control and emotion regulation. They also need to mix it up a little with other kids and learn how to get along with each other (with a little guidance here and there).

ONLY SEEK OUT ASSESSMENT FOR ADHD IF IT’S REALLY A SUBSTANTIAL CONCERN TO EVERYONE

We are now diagnosing toddlers with ADHD. Some toddlers are getting prescribed medication for ADHD. The rationale for this is to help kids as early as possible before the consequences of ADHD take hold on their development.

While this strategy has been controversial, the fact is that some toddlers show very extreme levels of behavior that are different than what you see at that age. But keep in mind that this is a very low percentage of toddlers, and that it’s very challenging to determine this clinically. Hinshaw and Scheffler point out that inappropriate diagnoses of ADHD often come about because the diagnostic process is not comprehensive, and in fact way too short. The result is then a sloppy (and typically wrong) diagnosis of ADHD, and a potentially inappropriate prescription.

Parents need to be appropriately cautious (but not dismissive) of concerns that their toddlers are showing signs of ADHD, particularly if they are in a preschool that is expecting them to behave like “school kids.” One of the hallmarks of ADHD is that it is pervasive – it should be a big problem at home, at school, almost everywhere. Maybe not all the time, but you shouldn’t see “symptoms” in just one context, like a preschool classroom. And you should see the “symptoms” occurring much more frequently than you see them in other toddlers. Often times (not always) a hallmark is very impulsive behavior that can put a youngster at risk for injury. Being distracted now and then and not wanting to sit still is what we call … being a toddler.

BE A SAVVY PARENT

The reality is that parents need to be savvy, both about the type of preschool environment that’s right for toddlers, and how ADHD gets wrongly diagnosed, especially in very young children. A preschool should look and feel like a preschool when you go in there. Kids should be acting like kids, having fun, but have some structure and purpose in mind. They should be playing a lot more than they should be doing “schoolwork.” Educators know how to nurture their developing brains and bodies to promote the very real and necessary social, emotional and cognitive development that takes place in those critical years that provide a foundation for academic readiness (a term which, by the way, shouldn’t go away in the early school years either). And if your preschool is concerned about ADHD, take the concern seriously, but be discriminate. Here’s an interview with an ADHD expert that provides a good feel for knowing when to be concerned about ADHD, and what to do about it.

Kids Playing via Shutterstock.com

Help your child organize her homework assignments with our helpful worksheet.

ADHD and Five Impaired Abilities
ADHD and Five Impaired Abilities
ADHD and Five Impaired Abilities

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Snow Days Are Great Days For Arts And Crafts

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

With yet more snow and cold, and cold and snow, making it’s way through many parts of the country, lots of kids will be enjoying snow days. And while playing outside in the snow is a fabulous way to spend time, these days are also great days for doing arts and crafts.

Arts and crafts will be one of the big themes this year in child development. Why? We are seeing more research on the developmental benefits that come from doing arts and crafts. Even simple activities during toddlerhood – such as copying shapes – supports academic readiness for kindergarten. And new studies suggest long-term benefits, like being innovative in adulthood.

Want some ideas? Here are a number of ways to do arts and crafts at home. And what if you don’t have all the materials you would need for some of these activities. Then, just have your kids use what you have, and make up your own crafting activity! It’s a great thing to do on a snow day.

Little Child With Hands Painted via Shutterstock.com

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Super Bowl Ads and Kids

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

If your kids are planning on watching the Super Bowl, you should be aware of the new type of advertising that is designed to connect with your kids in a deeper way – especially by using social media. Here I share the perspective of Common Sense Media on what’s happening and also to provide some tips for parents to keep in mind on Super Bowl Sunday. You may also want to consider a report they just released about today’s advertising landscape at http://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/advertising-to-children-and-teens-current-practices   

KIDS AS PART OF THE PRODUCT-SELLING CYCLE
Let’s start with a break down of how this is happening from Common Sense Media:
As inappropriate as many of the Super Bowl ads will be for kids, TV ads are the least of parents’ concern as advertising methods today are blurring the lines between advertising and entertainment for even the savviest media consumer — let alone young kids, and kids are becoming part of the product-selling cycle.  

Now, instead of relying on big-screen shock value to capture attention, this year advertisers are relying on our kids in large part to spread the word for them. For example, Doritos’ “Crash the Super Bowl” ad contest has been seeking votes all over the web – including kids’ game site Addicting Games – where behavioral and location information can be collected to target ads, and where likes, shares and views are the new measure of success. And while traditional advertising and its effects on kids has been well researched, no one knows the impact of these new media platforms. 

No doubt Super Bowl ads can be outrageous and inappropriate, but millions of kids will be on phones and tablets while watching the big game and it’s the ads they interact with on these little screens – that might not even register as ads – that have far greater implications for kids’ healthy development today. 

WHAT PARENTS (AND KIDS) SHOULD KNOW

Caroline Knorr, Parenting Editor at Common Sense Media, provides the following take on the new landscape of advertising and kids:
While it’s fairly easy to explain to kids when ads are embedded in products (like happymeal.com) - because kids are literally interacting with the products on those platforms – it’s more difficult to explain the more insidious social marketing which makes kid consumers play an essential role in product promotion.
Retail sites like Abercrombie Kids, Justice, and others have “like” buttons and other social sharing options on all of their product pages. So, if a kid “likes” a pink t-shirt on Abercrombie kids, all of those kid’s friends will get the update from that site. That’s advertising. Sites that ask you to create outfits out of their clothes and then upload those photos (selfies) to the site – that’s advertising that you, the consumer, are providing free of charge to the brand.
TIPS FOR PARENTS
Knorr suggests the following tips for parents:
Train kids to recognize the word “ad” – and notice when something carries that label. Advertisers are required to use it in environments that wouldn’t necessarily be obvious (like online in apps, etc.)
Point out where all the ads are – especially the ones that use your search history to target specific ads to you (in games, online, Facebook, Google). Everything kids have searched for or emailed about or posted could potentially be data-mined to serve up specifically targeted ads.
Don’t sign up for text updates from advertisers. Beware of SPAM on cellphones – kids’ cell phones seem to get targeted often by spammers.
Ask your kids what they get out of the arrangement when they “like” a product on a site or upload selfies to a brand site.
FINAL THOUGHTS
From my vantage point, the most important thing here is for parents and kids to be aware of what they are doing online when it comes to retailers. That way informed decisions can be made and there will be at least some clarity of the role kids may (or may not) play in advertising. This year’s Super Bowl may provide a good platform for these kinds of discussions.

Could your child be a professional athlete when he or she grows up? Take our quiz to find out!

Digital Devices and Children
Digital Devices and Children
Digital Devices and Children

Family Watching TV via Shutterstock.com

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Reading and Talking To Young Children About Entrepreneurship

Friday, January 24th, 2014

In my last blog post, I discussed the relevance and importance of cultivating “entrepreneurial traits” in children.  This could, and should, start in the early years, as kids are always fascinated to learn about different types of jobs.

A novel approach is offered via the new book Camila’s Lemonade Stand. The book focuses on Camila, a “plucky kid in the Career Launcher Crew, seven fearless children in search of their futures.” The story line follows Camila as she finds herself with no money for the Ferris wheel, and encounters a friendly sprite named Itsy who suggests that she can start a business.

The concept behind the book is that it’s not just to be read to children, but in fact used as a platform for fun discussion and promotion of entrepreneurial thinking (facilitated by a companion guide). Some of the key themes that can be introduced include:

  • Ideas are valuable
  • You can come up with your own new ideas
  • You can think of a lot of different ideas and consider the pros and cons
  • Translating ideas into actions can serve people (it can make them happy) as well as yourself (it can make you happy)

These are principles that all young children should be learning, as they serve as foundations for developing a problem-solving mindset that encourages innovation and creativity.

Here is a video of an interactive reading from the book that illustrates the potential for the approach in a classroom.

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Beyond the ABCs – Teaching Kids About Work and Life

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

Remember when kids used to talk about what they wanted to be when they grow up?

It’s troubling to think that kids don’t do that as much anymore. As a culture, we’ve become consumed with the idea that the purpose of education is to build pure academic skills that can be measured by standardized tests. This kind of thinking filters down to the youngest kids – even preschoolers can be faced with an “academic” curriculum that leaves little time for play (the work of childhood), imagination, and connection to the real world.

One way to change this thinking is to infuse children with a sense of wonder of what it’s like to “do” in the world. I’ve been researching the lives of entrepreneurs to find out what makes them tick – not to learn how kids can become entrepreneurs, but rather to discover some keys to instilling them with entrepreneurial thinking. Why? Simply put, entrepreneurial types embrace many principles that will serve kids well – they are positive thinkers who know how to generate their own passion and take on obstacles in order to reach their goals. These are real world skills that all kids should have and can start learning early in life – yet skills that are not part of our mainstream educational roadmap.

One thing I’ve learned from my research is that I’m not the only one who feels this way. Brian Cunningham, successful entrepreneur and co-founder of MyCareerLauncher.com, suggests that many kids grow up without having a chance to develop the type of passion that fuels the entrepreneur and would serve all kids well (no matter what type of career they end up pursuing later in life). He feels that we need new resources to reverse this growing trend and to plant the seeds early in life. To this end, MyCareerLauncher.com is providing both a mindset and new tools – particularly a series of books – to help educators, parents, grandparents (all the supportive folks that kids need in their lives) cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit in kids. Consider this quote that summarizes their mission:

What’s it like to be, say, an entrepreneur, mechanical engineer, infectious disease specialist, marine biologist, biochemist, sculptor, thoracic surgeon, architect, or software programmer? What kinds of knowledge and skills are needed? Where are the greatest rewards, needs and opportunities? Presented in the right way, and with guidance from significant others, insights based on the life experiences of experts can help children “discover a path where their passions can shine”.

In the next few days I will be featuring more about MyCareerLauncher.com as one resource for parents and educators alike that will help kids learn more than the ABCs and begin to cultivate a spirit and motivation that is the core to their potential to be everything they want to be. Next up: an introduction to a terrific new book – Camila’s Lemonade Stand – developed by MyCareerLauncher.com to serve as a platform for conversations with kids to stoke their imaginations.

What career will your child have? Take the quiz and found out!

Spring Cleaning With Kids!
Spring Cleaning With Kids!
Spring Cleaning With Kids!

 

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