Playing to improve concentration

Children’s attention span or ability to concentrate is constantly growing. If we compare a one-year-old and a five-year-old, it’s clear that the progression is huge. This aspect, like every aspect of childhood development, can be worked on. Children’s ability to concentrate can be stimulated through various activities. Being able to stop and pay attention to specific elements and stay focused for a certain period are simple, yet highly important factors. Read on to discover 10 activities that will help children develop their ability to concentrate.

 

  1. Blindfold a child with a scarf and give him verbal instructions he must execute. For example, you may ask him to clap his hands, spin around, stand on one leg, etc.
  2. The parrot game. Pronounce a word, a sound, or a series of two or three numbers and ask the child to repeat it/them. You may also trade roles and ask the child to say something that you must repeat.
  3. Ask children to be perfectly silent and pay attention to the sounds that are present within your daycare. Name the sounds and identify the source of each one.
  4. Clap your hands and invite children to move forward according to the rhythm (one clap=one step).
  5. Clap your hands and have children stamp a bingo marker once for every clap.
  6. Pronounce words. Have children draw a continuous line on a piece of paper until you stop speaking.
  7. Give each child an empty toilet paper roll. Let children have fun repeating the words or sounds pronounced by a child inside their cardboard tube. Give each child the chance to lead the game.
  8. Give each child a drum (plastic containers with lids work just fine). Tap a drum and ask children to reproduce each rhythm.
  9. Deposit coins in a jar. Children walk to the rhythm produced by the coins falling in the jar.
  10. Ask children to close their eyes. Make a noise (crumple paper, close a door, cough, sneeze, etc.). Have children name the sound.

You may have to adapt these activities depending on the ages of the children in your group. Gradually increase the level of difficulty. Keep in mind that the children in your group may not all have the same capacities, especially in multi-age groups.

 

Have fun!

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How to help children manage their impulsiveness

Impulsiveness is common among children who have special needs. It can cause a great deal of disorganization. The adults who care for special needs children may constantly feel as if they have a time bomb on their hands, since they have no idea when children will “explode”. What’s more, they may have the impression they are walking on eggshells or be afraid even the simplest refusal will spark a tantrum. Does this ring a bell? Probably. After all, impulsiveness is frequently observed in young children.

What is impulsiveness?

If we were to try to define impulsiveness, we may say that it represents the thoughtless side of a person or action. In real terms, impulsiveness is a lack of self-control that leads children to react very quickly, that prevents them from thinking before they act and often, leads them to overreact when they face a negative situation or emotion.

How does impulsiveness manifest itself?

It is not always easy to affirm or confirm that we are really dealing with a problem related to impulsiveness. Very often, at a young age, we believe that a lack of maturity or a lack of self-control causes children to act without thinking. A child who spontaneously hits one of his peers, a child who gets up before you have finished giving your instructions to the group, and a child who disregards rules can all be associated with poor self-control. Children want to have or do something and they immediately spring into action, as soon as the thought crosses their mind.

Several behaviours may be present. Here is a short, non-exhaustive list of behaviors you can encounter. A child may:

  • speak over his early childhood educator.
  • steal another child’s turn.
  • get up very quickly at the end of an activity, before listening to complete instructions.
  • explode with anger when he faces refusal.
  • hit another child when he is approached.
  • make errors caused by inattention, not because of an incapacity.

As previously mentioned, impulsiveness can often be linked to poor self-control which is normal in young children. As children get older, their self-control develops and their impulsive behavior should decrease and become less intense. In one-year-olds, we may observe the first signs of self-control through their brief (but real) capacity to wait. At two or three years of age, children can tolerate frustration without necessarily exploding in anger. In general, at four or five years old, children have the capacity to calm themselves and be flexible. Several factors, such as a child’s temperament, can play a big role in controlling impulsiveness. With time, you will be able to determine whether a child faces an impulsiveness problem. Certain diagnoses, for example, an attention deficit order with hyperactivity, have an impulsiveness component. Once again, most diagnoses will not be made during preschool years, even if your observations lead you to suspect certain difficulties may be present.

How can you help a child control his impulsiveness?

As I often say, it is important that we, as early childhood educators, stock children’s toolboxes with tools that will help them throughout life. This is also true when dealing with impulsiveness. Whether a child’s impulsiveness is developmental or a real problem, your role is to help him manage it. Here’s how you can fulfill this role.

  • Reward good behavior. Impulsive children can, day after day, display a great deal of negative behavior. You may have the impression you are constantly intervening. For this reason, it is highly important that you congratulate impulsive children for good behavior to try to encourage it.
  • Teach children to name their emotions and recognize the signs associated with each one. Managing emotions will have a direct impact on impulsiveness. Teach children methods they can use to control their emotions. Keep in mind that all emotions are healthy. Too often, it is the means children use to express them that you must work on.
  • When a child is going through a difficult situation, take the time to discuss the situation with him to help him identify solutions. Slowly, children will register the acceptable solutions you offer. This may help them avoid explosive situations.
  • Watch for signs that may precede a tantrum or an impulsive act and try to divert children’s attention before it’s too late.

Of course, managing impulsiveness requires a great deal of patience. Take it one step at a time and try to be consistent.

Source.

Why is Voting Important? – Lesson for Kids

Voting is an important process in our country through which leaders are selected to make laws and solve problems.

In this article, explore the history of voting, discover why it is important to vote, and learn why you should vote in every election.

Time to Vote! Let’s learn why everyone should vote, and how it can change the way you live.

What Are Elections?
An election is when leaders are chosen for public offices or jobs by voters. Elections can be held for people who have local jobs. An example of a local leader is a mayor, who works to help make life better for people living in their town or city. There are also elections for state and national leaders, like your state’s governor.

So where do people go to vote? There are sites called polling places, which are usually public buildings like schools or libraries where people who live close by can come and vote.

Voting History
Can you imagine a time when certain groups of people were not allowed to vote? Sadly, this happened not very long ago. Up until 1920, only white men were allowed to vote. However, women and African Americans fought for the right to vote, which is often referred to as suffrage.

Voting Can Improve Communities
Imagine a school building, maybe the one where you are a student. Who decided to construct this building? Who decided that you would go to this particular school? Local leaders made these decisions, and they are people who are voted into these jobs. When you vote, you get to have a say in who these leaders are.

You can also choose state and national leaders, who make laws that improve the lives of people living in their state.

Today is an election day. Make your voice heard.

Being active can foster children’s ability to concentrate

Many studies have demonstrated the fact that including more physical activity in children’s daily schedule may help them focus. I am sure you have heard the expression a healthy mind in a healthy body. The nature of this expression becomes clear when we read about all the benefits children reap from physical activity. Among other things, physical activity can be helpful for the development of strong bones and muscles, increase endurance, and improve self-esteem. Certain studies have also highlighted the fact that it is easier for children who are in better physical condition to make decisions, plan, and follow instructions.

Take a few minutes to examine your day. Do you think children have sufficient opportunities to be physically active? Can you compare the time children spend sitting down and the number of opportunities they have to run and jump for example? Like adults, children are all different. Some adults need to be more active while others are more sedentary. Personally, I have a strong need for physical activity. There’s nothing like a thirty-minute run to increase my productivity at work. The same is true for children. The more they move during the day, the easier it is for them to focus and remain seated, for example at lunch time or during story time.

I would like to act as a spokesperson and convince you to include more physical activity in your daily routine. I even encourage you to be active with your group. It will be a win-win, trust me. Here are a few simple ways to get children to move more.

  • Make sure children have time to play outside every day.
  • Add stretching exercises to your morning routine to help each child’s body wake up. Once their body has had the opportunity to be active, their brain will have the ability to concentrate on a more sedentary activity.
  • Encourage children to be active when they are moving from one area to another within your daycare. For example, have them imitate different animals, hop, etc.
  • Every day, especially when it’s raining, be sure to include one high-energy activity. The possibilities are endless.
  • Before sitting down for an activity for which children will need to focus, take a few minutes to stand up and perform a few stretching exercises. Afterwards, children will be able to concentrate on the task at hand.
  • If you have enough room within your daycare, set up an “active play” area. Add cushions, mats, balls, hula hoops, etc. Any equipment or material children can use to release their extra energy should be in this area.

1, 2, 3…move!

Source

4 Parts of a Conversation: How to Help Kids With Social Skills Issues Navigate

At a Glance

  • Navigating a conversation can be difficult for kids with social skills issues.
  • Different skills are required for various parts of a conversation.
  • You can help your child get better at joining, starting, maintaining and ending conversations.

For most people, having a conversation is easy. We don’t think about having to make appropriate comments or how to join in when other people are talking. But for kids with social skills issues, the normal flow of conversation can be hard.

Important skills, like reading body language and knowing what to say (and when to say it), don’t come easily to them. Here’s a look at the four parts of a conversation, the skills involved, and how to help your child navigate each one.

1. Joining a Conversation

Group conversations are tricky because there’s more than one person to connect with. Each person has a unique personality and communication style. The group itself has a unique way of functioning, based on who’s in it and what’s being discussed.

Skills involved:

  • Reading the body language of the group to know if it’s appropriate to join in.
  • Using the right phrases to ask to be included.
  • Understanding the tone of voice people use when they aren’t OK with you joining.
  • Knowing what’s being discussed, and staying on topic.

Why it might be hard: Trouble reading body language can keep kids from knowing if a conversation is private or open. They may also misunderstand the rhythm of the conversation. Is the pause in talking a natural lull? Or is someone just taking time to breathe? And some kids don’t get that they need to talk about the topic at hand to join a conversation.

How to help:

  • Use videos, TV shows or real-life events to point out situations where a group is turned away or talking privately. Also, point out when people in a conversation are looking around and seem open to others joining.
  • Model for your child how to wait for a break in the flow of conversation and then ask a question, like “Is it OK if I join you?”
  • Remind your child to listen and say something related to what others are saying. Your child can use “wh” questions (who, what, when, where and why) to get up to speed.

2. Starting a Conversation

Launching a conversation involves a number of steps. To be successful at it, you have to do them all correctly. The first step is often the hardest: figuring out if this is the right time to have a conversation.

Skills involved:

  • Knowing to start with a greeting, and having the language to do that.
  • Recognizing if it’s an appropriate time to have a conversation.
  • Choosing an appropriate topic and having phrases to open the dialogue.
  • Recognizing nonverbal cues that show if the other person is interested and wants to talk.

Why it might be hard: Kids who are impulsive may burst into a conversation without any greeting. They may act like the other person already knows what they’re thinking. Some kids may not be able to read the “feel” of a room to know if it’s a good time to start a conversation. And once they start, they may not pick up on signs that the person isn’t interested in talking.

How to help:

  • Teach basic greeting phrases to use with familiar people (“Hi, how are you?”) and with unfamiliar people (“Hi, I’m Joe—I’m Miranda’s neighbor”).
  • Show your child what someone’s body language looks like when the person does and doesn’t want to talk. Also show examples of a neutral or uncomfortable facethat might mean a lack of interest.

3. Maintaining a Conversation

The work doesn’t stop once kids with social skills challenges enter a conversation. Continuing the conversation can be difficult, too. It requires following a number of social rules—and not just for a minute or two.

Skills involved:

  • Knowing how to take turns in a conversation.
  • Listening to what the other person says and responding appropriately.
  • Being able to stay on topic.
  • Reading body language, facial expressions and other nonverbal cues.

Why it can be hard: Impulsivity may cause kids to blurt something out or interrupt when they’re excited about a topic. Trouble with nonverbal cues may keep them from realizing that the other person is trying to speak or is losing interest. Kids also might be so stuck on one thought that they can’t let go of it.

How to help:

  • Teach your child how to ask follow-up questions to show he’s heard and is interested in what the other person is saying. Give him scripted examples to practice and use.
  • Help your child practice keeping a thought in mind instead of blurting it out. Let him know it’s OK to say, “Remind me that I wanted to say something about that once you’re done,” if he’s worried he’ll forget his point.
  • Brainstorm words or phrases he can use to show he’s paying attention during conversation, like “right” or “that’s cool.” Make sure he knows he needs to mix them up a little because saying the same thing over and over can sound like he’s not paying attention.
  • Role-play and demonstrate how saying something off-topic or at the wrong time can sound like he’s not interested in what someone else is talking about.

4. Ending a Conversation

Ending a conversation can be as challenging as starting one. You have to read the situation correctly to know if it’s the right time to wrap it up. And then, you have to have the words to end it appropriately.

Skills involved:

  • Reading body language, facial expressions and other nonverbal cues.
  • Making sense of tone of voice and other verbal cues.
  • Being aware of how your own verbal and nonverbal cues may look to others (perspective-taking).
  • Conveying intent through language. (For example, “Well, I have to go now.”)

Why it can be challenging: Since many kids with social skills issues have trouble reading body language, they may not recognize that a person is no longer interested or needs to end a conversation. Kids who are impulsive or who struggle with communication skills may also end a conversation abruptly without saying “goodbye,” just walking away or hanging up the phone.

How to help:

  • Demonstrate some of the nonverbal cues your child may see when someone is trying to end a conversation, like checking the time, turning away or yawning.
  • Teach your child some of the verbal cues that show someone is trying to end a conversation, such as not answering questions, saying they should go or saying things like “So…” or “Well….”
  • Explain that your child can use these cues to end a conversation, too.
  • Teach phrases your child can use to know if the conversation is over. One example is: “Are you OK to keep talking, or do you need to leave?”
  • Help your child learn and practice how to close with a sentence like “It was good talking to you,” or “Well, I have to get going now,” before walking away.

For kids with social skills issues, learning the art of conversation takes lots of direct instruction and practice. So it’s important to be patient, and know that you may have to reinforce these skills over and over.

Learn more about what trouble picking up on social cues can look like in different grades. Read how a mom got her son to stop interrupting. And find out how the “chicken wing” rule can help kids learn to respect personal space during conversations.

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding body language, facial expressions and tone of voice are key conversation skills.
  • Being familiar with nonverbal cues, like when someone looks around or checks the time, can help your child know when it’s a good time to join or end a conversation.
  • Learning the art of conversation takes a lot of practice, so it’s important to be patient with your child.

 

The source can be found here.

5 ways to help an anxious child

We all know that anxiety can be present at any age, even in very young children. As they grow, most children follow a “normal” developmental trajectory in terms of anxiety manifestations. In simple terms, since anxiety is part of childhood development, we can expect to see children deal with it at different stages. The most common form of anxiety seen in children is separation anxiety. Others will develop signs and symptoms associated with more severe anxiety. As early childhood educators, you may have observed persistent signs associated with anxiety in children. You may even have felt powerless when you faced anxiety-related behaviors. There is no miracle recipe. However, certain strategies can be considered to help children in general, particularly those who may experience more serious symptoms.

A healthy lifestyle at its best

A rested, well-fed child who has a consistent schedule and healthy, balanced lifestyle habits may, over time, demonstrate fewer anxiety-related signs and behaviors. Anxiety tends to increase during times of stress or during periods when a child is more tired. For this reason, be sure to create a stable routine that leaves plenty of time for rest. Alternate between calm and active games and activities. Watch for signs. You may have to temporarily reorganize your schedule to fulfill the needs of your group if children need more rest.

Balance “reassurance” and “overprotectiveness”

When we intervene with an anxious child, reassuring him about his fears is extremely important. The same is true for future events. With an anxious child, you must aim to prepare him for unforeseeable events as much as possible. However, be very careful. Do not become overprotective. Try to find the middle ground between reassuring the child and preventing him from taking initiatives and developing a go-getter attitude. In the same way, make sure you aren’t helping the child avoid all situations that may cause anxiety or increase his level of anxiety. Instead, simply accompany the child whenever he is facing an anxiety-inducing situation.

Foster self-esteem

Self-esteem is built day by day. The more confident a child is, the more he will believe in his ability to succeed. His level of anxiety will most likely go down. Make a point of positively reinforcing an anxious child. Set him up for success and show him you have faith in his abilities…and your own. Keep in mind that children learn by example and you are an important role model.

Plan for what’s coming

Of course, we can’t plan everything. Nonetheless, integrating an illustrated schedule and announcing field trips and special activities ahead of time can help children feel prepared to face what’s coming. All children need to be reassured whenever they face unfamiliar people or activities. Explaining how and when things are going to occur will help an anxious child. Aim to use visual tools as often as possible.

Acceptance

Each child is unique. If an anxious child feels accepted despite his anxiety, it will be much easier for him to grow and evolve. Accompany an anxious child as much as possible.

With your help, an anxious child can tackle the challenges associated with his anxiety.

The source can be found here.

The confusion between accommodation and remediation

“I wish I knew this at the beginning of the school year!” How many times have you realized that you could have done things differently as a parent, had you had better knowledge about your kid’s learning and development?

In this article, I would like to explain the differences between two critical terms: accommodation and remediation. These two terms often remain under-the-radar in many parent-teacher meetings and are the cause of fruitless attempts of improving students’ performance in school. Throughout my work as an educational specialist, I meet with many parents who are faced with many challenges in helping their children succeed with tasks that require cognitive/executive functions. These kids face different kinds of issues on a daily basis. The main two being homework and class performance.

Nevertheless, those issues surface much more in school than at home. Therefore, teacher-parent collaboration is essential. In the absence of effective cooperation, many parents end up feeling hopeless as they see how their children are not fulfilling their true potential as individuals and as learners. Many parents share with me their willingness to cooperate and meet with the school’s demands, but the issues seem to persist; they keep on getting negative reports from the teachers. Nothing seems to be working.

To learn more about their children, I ask parents many different questions seeking to clarify the areas of struggle.
For example, one parent explained to me how his son can read a chapter from the textbook but cannot recall what he read shortly after. A more significant problem emerged when the child started avoiding learning and showing outburst of anger. When the school administrator contacted the parents, the conversation revolved around the behavior and conclusion that the student might have ADHD or dyslexia [or both]. The teacher reported many ways to differentiate the teaching, some of which include moving the student’s seat closer to the board, breaking the tasks down into smaller tasks, and even working with the student one-on-one during lunch time. All these attempts ended up fruitless. The school’s recommendation was to send the student for an evaluation. Sadly, no one suggested discussing a plan of action to remediate to the child’s weak working memory, an essential executive function.

Parents know that when the issue pertains to their children their ability to control their emotions becomes compromised rapidly; some even admit that they feel physical aching during those meetings in school. Another ability that is weakened during these situations relates to asking the right questions, one of which could be the school’s ability to help the child.

If we want to help struggling students, we must clarify two types of appropriate supports. Theses supports fall into two categories: accommodation and remediation. Parents should find out whether the teacher and/or school are able and ready to provide students with these kinds of support. Some schools do so as part of their teaching style, other schools do not. Accommodation means providing support for the sake of achieving a result. For example, erecting a wheelchair ramp at the entrance of the City Hall is a support for the disables who needs to enter the building. Another example, when my student broke his finger in basketball practice, the nurse recommended that he will type his class-notes on the computer. These two cases are examples of accommodations where support is available for one to attain his/her goal. These accommodations are not meant to heal the disability nor the finger of my student. It will, nevertheless, help them achieve what they need to get.

In contrast to accommodation, remediation deals with the healing of the problem. The word remediation stems from the Latin word, remedialis, which means “healing, curing.” For example, a student who suffers from test anxiety and resorts to procrastination will benefit from sessions with a coach or a counselor who will help the student find out about causes and together form effective solutions. Moreover, the student may discover that her test anxiety stems from a fear of failure. The work with a coach will then focus on flexibility and problem-solving skills.

Another example of remediation could be a student with dyscalculia who struggles with understanding number-related concepts. It was the Kindergarten teacher who noticed the problem first. However, due to the child’s ability to remember answers rather than understand processes, the issue surfaced only in fourth grade. At that juncture, the teacher, who did not know the previous teachers, allowed the student to use a calculator in class. After a whole year of using a calculator, the student arrived in 5th grade unaware of the concept of place value. Needless to mention his arithmetic skills were below grade level. To remediate the student problem of dyscalculia, his 5th grade Math teacher will have to find the exact problem or use the student’s IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) to remediate a few years of Math deficit.

As you may realize, the ramifications of addressing a problem with accommodation rather than remediation can create a cycle of unproductive efforts and growing frustration. I have seen many parents who could not accept the idea that their child will be better off in a different school. These parents perceived their conversations with the school as utter humiliation. Unfortunately, there is a bad stigma for specialized schools. Even though these schools are fully equipped and dedicated for remediation, many parents still perceive specialized schools as institutes for troubled kids.

There are instances where accommodation is the best alternative, but in some instances remediation is the best option. Every parent should seek to understand the balance between these two approaches. The possibility of a blend of the two can also be explored.

Accommodation and remediation are thus two critical terms parents ought to know and understand. For students with learning disabilities, it is always better to inquire with the teacher about the difficulties of the student. Try to look for the facts. You would also want to remind yourself that managing your emotions during the meetings with the school’s representative will help you stay focused and ask the right questions. In addition, taking notes on the conversation will help you remember the key points when you follow up with the grade advisor or the school psychologist for further inquiry. Some of your questions should include trying to understand in which classes your child misbehaves or does not meet class expectations. Ask about the learning activities and the work environment. Find out about the activities your child performs rather well. Finally, ask what you can do at home to support the teacher’s endeavors and your child’s learning.

Showing curiosity and empathy with the teachers have proven to be very helpful. You do not have to agree with them, but mutual respect will surely enhance effective communication and progress. Understanding the differences between accommodation and remediation should change the way you encounter your child’s learning endeavors in school and home as well. Maintaining frequent communication with your child’s teachers by asking relevant questions will help you focus your efforts and resources effectively.

I wish you and your children a happy and successful first semester! Please remember that you can contact me with questions at contact@mrmizrahi.com.

Thank you,

Benjamin Mizrahi

The ABC method

Raise your words, not your voice. It is rains that grows flowers, not thunder.

The use of spanking to discipline children has been in decline for 50 years. But yelling? Almost everybody still yells at their kids sometimes, even the parents who know it doesn’t work. Yelling may be the most widespread parental stupidity around today.

Households with regular shouting incidents tend to have children with lower self-esteem and higher rates of depression. A 2014 study in The Journal of Child Development demonstrated that yelling produces results similar to physical punishment in children: increased levels of anxiety, stress and depression along with an increase in behavioral problems.

I use a program called the ABCs, which stands for antecedents, behaviors and consequences. The antecedent is the setup, telling a child, specifically, what you want them to do before you want them to do it. Behaviors are where the behavior is defined and shaped, modeled by the parent. And the consequence involves an expression of approval when that behavior is performed, an over-the top Broadway-style belt-it-to-the-back-row expression of praise with an accompanying physical gesture of approval.

So instead of yelling at your kid every night for the shoes strewn across the floor, ask him in the morning if he can put his shoes away when he comes home. Make sure when you come home that you put your own shoes away. And if your child puts his shoes away, or even puts them closer to where they’re supposed to be, tell him that he did a great job and then hug him.

The ABC method of praise is a highly specific technique. You have to be effusive, so you actually have to put a big dumb smile on your face and even wave your hands in the air. Next thing is you have to say, in a very high, cheerful voice, exactly what you’re praising. And then the third part is you have to touch the child and give him some kind of nonverbal praise. The silliness is a feature, not a bug. It makes the kid notice the praise that accompanies correct behavior. And that’s the point.

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#parenting #uesparents #uwsparents #educhat #nycparents #uesmommas #uwsmoms

Understand Executive Functions and its effect on people.

This blog is for anyone who wants to understand more about the Executive Functions and the troubles that are associated with them.
You will find answers to the following questions:
• What are the executive functions?
• When to use them?
• How do they work?
• What happens when they are altered?
The executive functions correspond to the necessary capacities a person has to adapt to new situations, that are non-routine, for which there is no ready-made solution.
What kind of daily routine activities use our Executive Functions?
Our daily life is filled with them:
• lacing one’s shoes
• turning on the switch when entering a room at night
• putting the ignition key to start the engine
• making coffee and more….
Their realization is based on an automatic implementation: we are not required to think about it, it only requires very little attention.
What about non-routine situations?
Every day, we are confronted with new and complex situations, for which there is no ready, automatic or immediate answer.
Example: Every day, Lisa leaves the office and takes the highway to go home. One day, she follows a truck and sees that a ladder is about to fall from it. Lisa quickly looks in her rearview mirror and decides to get on the other band at the height of the driver. She makes gestures at him, pointing to the back of the car.
 ∞
This summer, John decided to go camping in Iowa. As it’s his first time, he wants to plan to avoid unpleasant surprises. So he inquires about different existing campsites. Then he chose his campsite taking into account distance from the village and the nearest shops, places to visit and existing transport (with their prices and frequencies). Finally, when he called to book his location, he insisted on the type of location desired.
In both situations, there is no ready-made solution. It is necessary to make choices, to make decisions. A plan of action must be developed and implemented.
How does it work?
The commonality between routine situations and new ones is to choose a course of action in a set of different choices.
A situation becomes routine when it repeats itself frequently in our daily life.
Therefore, the way we respond to it can become, by force of nature, automatic.
When faced with this situation again, we “activate” the pilot scenario expected in this case.
Ben returns home at the end of the day. It’s dark outside. He opens the door and presses the switch to light up the room.
 ∞
 Sarah comes out of the bathroom. She puts on a shirt and button it.
 ∞
Jess gets behind the wheel of her car and takes the direction of her work.  She gets on the highway.
All these actions are routine in the sense that their engagement is done automatically. Sarah does not need to think about the way she buttons her shirt.

In the psychologist’s jargon, we say that a set of actions has been selected and that you now work on auto-pilot.

It can also happen to be confronted with familiar situations in which two or more set of activities can be activated simultaneously:
Raphael repaired his lawn mower. His hands are dirty. He enters the bathroom, goes straight to the sink, runs the water and takes the soap.
In the bathroom, there are several accessories: toothbrush, razor, deodorant, nail clipper, toothpaste, … They can all be used to start an activity: brush your teeth, shave, wash, …
However, only one will be activated: wash your hands.
In this everyday situation, a system has selected the appropriate action and prevented inappropriate activities to be engaged.
In the psychologist’s jargon, this system is called the conflict resolution system. Raphael takes the soap and not the toothpaste.
On the other hand, new situations require that we grant them more attention and we respond in a more controlled way.
Mickael returns home at the end of the day. It’s dark outside. He opens the door and directs his hand towards the switch but at the same time realizes that the lamp is already on.
He quickly decides to interrupt his gesture. If Mickael could stop himself from pressing the switch, it’s because his attention was sufficiently focused on the surrounding elements.
He could detect that the light was already on and inhibit ( restrain) his movement towards the switch.
What allowed him to prevent pressing the switch is called in the psychologist’s jargon supervisory attentional system (SAS)
Scott comes out of the bathroom. He puts on a shirt and realizes that he is missing a button. In this case, he must make a decision: change his shirt, sew the button or put a sweater on top. It’s hot, Scott is in a hurry: he’s changing his shirt.
If Scott made this decision, it’s because he took into account the different constraints of the situation. Again, this is the S.A.S underpinning the decision process.
Today Sunday, Lisa decided to visit a friend. She gets behind the wheel of her car and takes the direction of her work.
As she is busy thinking about the news she will announce to her, she realizes too late that she made a mistake. She is on the highway.
What explains that Lisa took the wrong way? While driving, Lisa has her attention directed mainly at what she will tell her friend and not about the way she’s taking.
She behaved as in a routine situation: her conflict resolution system has selected the route she travels most frequently too.
This happened because she was thinking of something else and so her S.A.S was not oriented towards the selection of the route.
This is also due to the limited capabilities of S.A.S which cannot handle several tasks at the same time with the same efficiency.
As we have just seen, the S.A.S fulfills several functions. We will specify six: inhibition, working memory, flexibility, active recovery of information in memory, attention divided and planning.
Inhibition:
The ability to refrain from producing an automatic answer, to stop the production of an answer in progress and rule out irrelevant stimuli from the current activity.
Jess is in the office of one of her friends. She realizes that she is reading the mail. She stops doing so for the sake of discretion.
  ∞
Eva has made some changes to the storage space in her kitchen. She changed the cutlery’s drawer, and since a few days, she must refrain from going to get them in the old place.
  ∞
Lisa and Anna manage to stay attentive to their conversation despite the fact that they hear what is being said in the next room.
Working Memory:
This ability to refresh the contents of one’s short memory (memory in which information is maintained temporarily, the time to process other information) taking into account new information transmitted to it.
At a party at her house, Raphael takes aperitifs order from his friends. The first asks for a coke while the other asks for a sprite. By the time Raphael starts to prepare the two drinks, one of them changes his mind and asks, instead of his coke,
a tomato juice.
Mental Flexibility:

The ability to move from one behavior to another depending on the requirements of the environment.

Sarah prepares the ingredients for a chocolate cake using her scale and scoop.
She follows the indications of the recipe. She first weighs .5lb of chocolate then measures 1 cup of milk and then weighs 2 cups of sugar …
  ∞
Eva is a sixth-grade student. She does her math homework and is being asked to perform alternately an addition followed by subtraction.
  ∞
Ben is a teacher. He puts away his exam’s sheets. He throws the question sheets into the bin, makes a pile in front of him with the copies and insert, in the other direction, between each copy, the corresponding draft sheets.
Active recovery of information in one’s memory

The ability to actively and effectively search information contained in your memory.

Ruth made a list of things to buy at the supermarket. In the store, she realizes that she forgot to take it with her. Some things come back to her right away. But on the other hand, she has to make a big effort to remember the rest.
She remembers that while writing the list, her husband told her about a meatloaf, but she does not know why … she remembers the ingredients she needed to make it happen.
Now she is almost certain to have everything but one thing … but which one? Since she does not know what it is anymore, she walks the different aisles of the store, hoping to find what she misses. She goes past the tomatoes, stops: she ended up
finding what she was looking for.
Divided Attention:
The ability to be attentive to two activities at the same time, which allows you to do both simultaneously.
Steve can hold a conversation while watching TV news pictures.
  ∞
As usual, Laura prepares the meal while having an animated discussion with one of her children.
  ∞
John repeats his history class while playing on his computer.
Planning

The ability to organize a series of actions in one optimal sequence to achieve a goal.

Kenny invites 25 people for dinner in his home. He plans to serve an appetizer, a dish, and a dessert. The goal is for the dishes to arrive hot at the table. While preparing, he will have to take into account the cooking time of the different dishes, the time of arrival of his guests and time they will spend on the aperitif …
  ∞
Meryl has a dentist appointment at 4 pm; it is 2 pm. She decides to run some errands: she must go to the dry cleaner pick up some shirts, get some milk from the grocery store and buy a book for her brother’s birthday. To lose as little time as possible and to be on time for her appointment, she decides the order in which she will carry out her errands.
ALTERATIONS OF THE EXECUTIVE SYSTEM
People suffering from a breach of the executive system meet, daily, difficulties to adapt to the family, social and professional life and to manage new situations.
However, some alterations may occur in people without brain injury but to a lesser extent.
Below you will find an illustration of the difficulties in Executive Functions that can be met by people who had a cerebral accident, cranial traumatism or degenerative disease of the nervous system. In healthy people, system malfunctions of the executive functions occur much less frequently. Their intensity is lower. Therefore, occasional malfunctions are less disabling.
Alterations of one’s inhibition
These are manifested by difficulties in preventing oneself from having inappropriate actions.
When she visits her friends, Pauline cannot help but read the mail she sees on the table.
  ∞
John is in a supermarket with his wife. He takes a loaf and goes to the machine to cut the bread. His wife asks him not to cut it. Johns continues his action: he advances towards the machine.
  ∞
Ben is at the restaurant with his wife. They plan holidays. Many times, Ben intervenes in the conversation of the table next to them.
  ∞
Jess has finished preparing the dinner. She throws peelings of potatoes, carrots, the stalks of celery, take the packet of butter to store it in the fridge but throws it into the bin.
Alterations of the working memory
They manifest themselves by the absence of a replacement of the old information with new information
The information that was stored in this memory a few seconds ago is not replaced by current information. In this case, the person continues to act in function of old information and not new information as she should.
Rob receives a phone call from his friend Charles, who gives him an appointment next Saturday at 7:30 pm He tells him about his son’s sports activities. He then remembers that he has to pick him up at 7 pm at his basketball training. He proposes to Robert to postpone the appointment to 8 pm. After hanging up, Robert notes in his agenda 7:30 pm.
 ∞
The secretary announces to Steve that she is exceptionally on leave the next day. They discuss another matter, and while leaving, Lucas tells her to see you tomorrow anyway.
Alterations to flexibility

They are manifested by difficulties in passing from one behavior to another depending on the environmental requirements.

Stephanie attends a meeting. The debate is lively. She is unable to follow the thread of the conversation disturbed by the rapid changes of interlocutors.
  ∞
Saturday afternoon, Rob goes to midtown to shop. He visits several shops and pays each time with his credit card. At the end of the afternoon, he goes to the market. He hands his credit card. He knows, however, that you can only pay in cash at the market.
  ∞
John corrects his dictation while Bert and his mother translate sentences into French. When Lou asks how a word is spelled, his mother translates it into French, instead of spelling it in English.
Alterations of active information retrieval in long-term memory
They are manifested by significant difficulties in remembering events from the past, most often close. However, it’s possible to remember to find these events with some hints.
These difficulties may also concern general knowledge acquired formerly.
Ted talks with his wife. She talks to him about the last weekend with the family in the mountain. Ted says first that he does not remember it. His wife then describes the house
that they had rented for the occasion and the fountain that Ted had noticed. Ted can then remember who was there, what they had eaten at the evening meal, and the Sunday afternoon walk.
Alterations of divided attention

They are manifested by difficulties in performing two tasks at the same time while each of the tasks can be performed individually without difficulty.

Joan likes to walk in the forest. Since his accident, walking requires more concentration, but he can do it when he’s not disturbed. When he walks with
other people who talk to him, he tends to stop to answer; he sometimes loses his balance or stumbles. If he stays focused, he cannot keep up with the conversations
around him or answer the questions correctly.
  ∞
Rina goes to the park with her children. She settles on a bench. Her children run on the playground, she watches them. A lady sits next to her and starts a conversation. After
10 minutes, Rina realizes she was not looking at what her children were doing anymore.
Planning alterations

They are manifested by difficulties in organizing a series of actions in an optimal sequence to achieve a goal.

The alterations can be found at different levels:
Maintaining one goal: It’s time, Pierre goes to the kitchen to prepare dinner. He looks out the window and notes that the lawn is not mown. He takes out his clipper and cuts the grass.
Plan and choose the different plans of actions that will achieve the goal: Since his accident, Sean is no longer able to plan his appointments. He does not program his alarm correctly and doesn’t wake up according to the first activity of the morning. He can not manage to calculate the time needed to be ready on time and the time it takes him to his activities: toilet, breakfast, getting dressed, ride, …
Choose the best course of action:
Johns starts by preparing the main course. It’s a simmered dish for which the preparation takes 25 minutes and 60 minutes cooking time. During the cooking time, instead of preparing the entrees(30 minutes), he waits until the 60 minutes are up.
Initiate an action plan while taking into account the changes and incidents for achieving the goal
Julia goes to the movies with a girlfriend. The session is at 5:15 pm. They decided to meet at 5:10 pm in front of the cinema. She is waiting for the 4:55 pm bus. Not seeing it arrive, she consults the schedule and finds out that it is the summer schedule. The next bus is at 5:10 pm. Instead of calling her friend so that she would already take the tickets, she sits down and waits for the next bus.
For more information on Executive Functions and tips on how to improve them, follow us on http://www.MrMizrahi.blog

July is Bereaved Parents Month

For all the parents, like my wife and I, who are out there living, walking, eating, even laughing sometimes, yet feeling a hole inside.

This is for you.

Losing a child is losing a part of you and yet you are still here. Still breathing, still paying bills, still talking about the weather. Still loving those left.

But never, ever, feeling whole again. How can anything ever replace the little hand you once held?
It cannot be replaced!

But I want to live until I die. I don’t want grief to paralyze me. It has changed me, but I don’t want it to stop me from living a full and joyful life. The death of my son has made me realize how precious life is and how it can be gone in a moment. I want my friends to see how precious their children are. I want those I love to live a full and filled life! I chose life!

If you know someone living this life, be aware that it will never stop hurting. It will never stop grasping the air out of their lungs in the middle of the night.

The grief will never end, it will remain, like a hole.

Love them hard. They deserve it.

Teaching your child about impulse control

Excitable as they are, children can often be seen diving into action or immersing themselves right into things. They’ll interrupt when mom or dad are mid-sentence or run around without checking their surroundings.

It is in part due to childhood innocence; if they have not yet been hurt, how would they know to be cautious?

By and large, impulsiveness is a regular part of childhood and is something that is not necessarily harmless. Unless children throw sharp objects around, hurt themselves or someone around them, there’s no need to be concerned.

Nevertheless, we must remain attentive to our children’s ability to hold on to what they want to say or do. It is a gradual process, not a matter of either you have or not. Impulse control remains an important executive function, one of the many skills that let us plan, focus our attention, and remember instructions. In other words, it is crucial that we allow our children to develop this skill at a pace that is reasonable for their age.

Below, you can find some ways to help your child develop this his/her impulse control:

Teaching by Example
The most basic approach is to lead by example. Kids tend to adopt behaviors not always considering its benefit. Therefore, we should be a good role model and practice the behavior we want our kids to display. To help children visualize this, talk to your children through your thought process. For example, “I would like to watch TV, but I know I have to clean the bedroom first.” Speaking out loud will go a long way in teaching your child to internalize dialogue that helps them manage their impulses.

Delayed Gratification
Give your child fun opportunities to practice delaying gratification. One way to implement this is to reward your child’s good behavior with tokens which they will redeem later for predetermined rewards (preferably non-tangible such as ‘daddy-and-me time’). Let your child also know that there is a more significant reward if he saves enough tokens, like a trip to a theme park or the movies!

 

Putting A Label on Emotions
Our little angels sometimes jump into action because they don’t know how else to express themselves to us. When we help our children understand their emotions, we help ourselves by reducing the chances of tantrums and teach them to deal with their inconvenience independently. Talk about the differences between feeling and behavior, letting them know that it is okay to feel angry, but that it is not okay to throw things to express that. As always, be sure to lead by example. If they see their parents yelling at each other when they’re angry, they’ll naturally think there’s nothing wrong with doing the same.

Drilling It in With Repetition
Sometimes, our children want to see our faces light up with pride that they’ve done something well. So, when you give them instructions, they nod and get right to it. Instead, ask your child to repeat your directions before they get moving. Make sure to praise them so they’ll feel encouraged to do it again next time!

Keep It Positive
Use games like ‘Simon Says’ and ‘Red Light Green Light’ that give children ample opportunities to practice impulse control. With these games, they’ll learn to wait for instructions, or to stop and think, all while they’re enjoying themselves. You can also have your child practice reading with a partner, taking turns to read each paragraph and letting them practice waiting for their turn.

Consistency Is Key
Our children need us to be consistent, or they might get confused as to what is acceptable and what isn’t. Simple things like “Hold my hand and look both ways before crossing the road,” will go a long way if you practice this each time we approach the street. Routines will create less opportunity for chaos, which helps to reduce impulsive behavior.

While helping our children develop impulse control, do remember that it is a learning process and not an overnight change. Praise them to acknowledge good behavior and encourage your children when they make a mistake. Even adults make mistakes at times, so let them know that it is normal to make a once-in-a-while mistake and motivate them to do better next time.