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Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Teaching Conversational Skills

Conversational skills build a foundation for developing friendships, cooperating with other people, and communicating effectively with people in every aspect of life. Although the art of conversation is difficult to address, below are some strategies for teaching basic conversational skills.

1. Model Skills – Children learn from watching other people and then practicing skills. Role play is a fun and extremely effective way to teach skills because it lets children learn from examples. During role play model an appropriate greeting or conversation. Let children see how questions are asked and answered and how people remain on topic. Keep the ‘skits’ short and simple at first to establish the basic skills then expand on them later.

2. Practice Small Steps - Just like any other skill, social skills need to be broken into smaller steps and practiced repeatedly. Role play greetings by teaching the child to say, “Hello” and then expand to, “Hello, how are you?”

3. Multiple Phrases, Settings, and People – Conversational skills should be developed with a variety of people, phrases, and novel settings. To promote generalization of skills, introduce different questions and wording when role playing such as: “Good morning,” “Hello,” and “Hi there!” By doing this, children learn there are various greetings and responses. Since conversations occur throughout the day with different people, recruit people in the school or community to help the child practice. Ask the crossing guard or librarian to engage the child in a conversation that incorporates the skills being practiced.

4. Remember Body Language – When practicing conversational skills, be sure to include key skills such as personal space (approximately an arm’s length is considered appropriate in the United States), body language, and facial cues. These unspoken aspects of conversation are often extremely difficult for children to grasp and should be included in role play and instruction.

5. Ways to Reduce Repetition – Children frequently learn saying hello or asking someone their name is part of a conversation, so they may repeatedly incorporate these phrases in the same conversation. One way to practice saying something only once is to hold up a finger as a visual cue during role play. For example, if there is a question or phrase that should only be used once, hold up a finger during conversational practice time. After the child asks the question put your finger down. This is a cue that the child already has asked the question. After the child has used this cue successfully a number of times, practice without the visual cue and then praise them for remembering to ask the question only once. Another strategy is to have the child keep a hand (preferably the left hand if you are teaching them to shake hands) in their pocket with one finger pointed. After they ask their favorite question, have them stop pointing or stop pointing and remove their hand from their pocket. This allows the child to remind themselves they used this phrase or question and other people are not able to see this personal cue.

6. Praise and Review - Praise children for greeting people, using a phrase once, or ending a conversation appropriately. Often it is best to praise children during role play or after the child is away from other people to avoid embarrassing them. To reinforce the skill, be sure to review what they did correctly. For example, “I like the way you asked Mr. James if he was having a nice day only once.” If a novel situation occurs naturally, role play it later and use it as a learning experience.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Teaching Young People to Understand and Respond to Feelings

Children often struggle not only with understanding their feelings, but also relating to other people’s feelings. These skills are critical for personal well being and building relationships. This article includes steps for teaching children to understand and manage their feelings as well as identify and respond to other people’s feelings.

1. Identifying Feelings – Teach children to recognise when they have a specific feeling. Whether happy, sad, or angry the first step in coping with a feeling is identifying it. Help children identify feelings by discussing emotions when they occur. If a child is angry say, “I see you are angry. You have your arms crossed and are stomping your feet.” Another tool is to role play times when specific emotions surface. Use novel examples as well as recent experiences for the child. Discuss and write about different feelings in a feelings journal. Use the journal to write about events and the emotions, responses, and consequences the events elicited.

2. Planning for Strong Feelings – Help children cope with intense feelings by creating coping strategies. Have a quiet place for children to take a break when angry or sad. Give children tools and teach them how and when to use them such as a stress ball or a trampoline. These tools help children release energy in a positive way. Encourage children to use words or write about their feelings. Establish a phrase the child can use to remove themselves from stressful or upsetting situations. The phrase gives children a way to politely excuse themselves, regain control, and then return to the situation. Select a short phrase that can be used in a variety of situations such as, “Excuse me. I need a minute to think.”

3. Recognising Other People’s Feelings – Learning to empathize with other people and respond appropriately to another person’s feelings, is an important skill for building relationships. Show pictures and drawings or role play situations to discuss the words, body language, and experiences that indicate a person’s feelings. When discussing a child’s own feelings, incorporate the concept that peers and adults have similar feelings in the same situation. This helps children develop empathy. Read stories where characters experience events that are happy, sad, surprising, or frustrating. Discuss why the characters felt the way they did and what they said or did to indicate their feelings.

4. Responding to Other People’s Feelings – Not only do children have to identify other people’s feelings, but they also need to learn how to respond when someone is angry, sad, or excited. Teach children appropriate responses through role play and reviewing past events. Discuss how different people in the role play feel, how their body language and words show their feelings, and the best response for the situation. Also discuss how the child would feel if this happened to them and how they would like other people to respond. This helps children learn to empathize with other people.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Mother 'prescribes' coffee to counter the effects of seven-year-old son's ADHD

It's more usually regarded as a morning pick-me-up, but coffee may help to calm attention deficit hyperactivity disorder sufferers down.
A mother of a hyperactive son believes the hot drink counters his symptoms and now carefully 'prescribes' it to her young son.
Christie Haskel turned to the internet after noticing that her son, Rowan, displayed some of the classic signs of ADHD.
Cup of Joe: Coffee may calm ADHD sufferers, believes Christie Haskel who says it has helped calm her son's hyperactivity
'At home there was a lot of hyperactivity,' the mother told ABC News.
She said Rowan, seven, was 'not able to keep his hands to himself, talking when he's not supposed to talk,' and lacked 'concentration or ability to concentrate when he needed to.'
Online, she found a host of information suggesting that the drink's caffeine content may help Rowan and allow him to avoid the side-effects of ADHD drugs such as Ritalin.
She now gives him two 4-ounce mugs of milky coffee a day, at precise intervals and with a rigorous dedication that is normally given to prescription drugs.
No silver bullet: Though Ms Haskel remains sanguine about the drink's effects, she says it is worth a try for those who may wish to avoid drugs such as Ritalin
And, unlike some medicines, the experience of drinking a cup of coffee is certainly no hardship. 'It tastes good and it calms me down' Rowan told the news channel.
Ms Haskel is pleased with the encouraging results and has blogged her story on's The Stir.
'If we ask him to sit down and do homework, he can actually do it'
'He doesn't overreact if we ask him to pick up Legos, rather than screaming and throwing himself on the floor.
'And if we ask him to sit down and do homework, he can actually do it,' she said to ABC News.
However, some scientists and doctors warn against self-diagnosis and prescribing caffeine as a sedative.
Dr. Richard Besser, senior health and medical editor for ABC News, said: 'A lot of children get into trouble by treatments that are just designed by parents who find stuff on the Internet.'
There is a danger, too, that some parents may see caffeine as the answer to what may be a more severe problem - and the added risk that coffee may solve one problem but create other medical issues in its path.

Though not approved as a treatment of ADHD, coffee may be more than just a morning ritual
Known - and well documented - side-effects of caffeine include increased heart rate, sleeplessness, anxiety attacks and mood changes.
Dr. David Rosenberg, chief of psychiatry at the Children's Hospital of Michigan in Detroit told ABC News: 'Caffeine is not the answer for real, bona fide ADHD.
'I don't want parents to be diluted into a false sense of security that if I just go to the local Starbucks, I'm going to cure my son or daughter's ADHD.'
New research shows nearly one in 10 American children now receive an ADHD diagnosis - a number that is firmly increasing, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Lara J. Akinbami, an author of the study told the channel that 'ADHD continues to increase, and that has implications for educational and health care because kids with ADHD disproportionately use more services, and there are several co-morbid conditions that go along with it.'
Christie Haskel remains loyal to the wonder drink, though, and says that it is worth giving a chance.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Strategies for Developing Classroom Friendships

Children spend a significant amount of time in the classroom which is a wonderful environment to build lasting friendships. This article includes strategies for helping children develop friendships with classmates.

1. Activities – Create situations where children collaborate and work together. Look at their interests and abilities and use paired or group activities to encourage interaction. Physical activities like team sports or throwing a ball and counting the number of times it remains in the air before being dropped are fun and require teamwork. Small group projects like creating a collage where children have assigned roles such as writer, picture locator, and materials cutter, help children focus on a task and interact to complete it. Depending on a child’s age and ability, give them more or less structured directions. For older children, let them select different roles and problem solve how to complete the project as a way to learn collaboration and compromise.

2. Direct Instruction – Sometimes it is necessary to discuss and outline social skills clearly for children to understand them. Role plays and group discussions about meeting someone new, having a conversation, sharing, helping, and being a good sport can illustrate aspects of the skills children may overlook. Rehearse new scenarios, frequent interactions, or a past event to practice real-world situations. Start by clearly explaining the specific actions in the skill. For example, when practicing having a conversation discuss and practice greetings, responding to questions, asking questions, attending to the person, and saying good-bye. Have children role play a scene with the skill. Discuss possible things to say and do when having a conversation and how choices during a conversation affect the outcome of the interaction.

3. Bridge Home and School – Parents and teachers can work together to promote an interest in school friendships. Have children write a story about their classroom friends then ask parents to read and discuss the story at home. For younger children, include information about friends in notes home. Mention things like, “Alex played cars with Sarah in the sandbox.” Encourage parents to ask about who the child played with or worked with at school.

4. Activities Outside the Classroom - Children often see classmates at community activities. Joining a new activity with a classmate is a way to encourage friendships outside of school and have the support of an existing friend at a new event. Whether playing on a baseball team or attending story time, participating with someone the child knows is a way for them to have additional common interests.

5. Don’t Pressure Children – Teaching children the basics of being good to peers is important. Sometimes children develop close friendships this way, other times they will remain classmates. Do not force a friendship, but encourage children to share, say kind things, and be good to their classmates. Use children’s interests to involve them in activities such as sports, clubs, or neighborhood get-togethers they enjoy, so they continue to participate and find friends with similar hobbies.