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This post comes from Diann D, Grimm, M.A., CCC. ED.S. in the publication offered by Communication Skill Builders.  It is dated 1988, but the premise is very applicable to today.  This information is timeless.

Part I:  Language impaired children may have problems following directions because they have difficulty understanding language.  It is important to give clear, simple directions.  You can help your child learn how to understand language and how to do a specific job at the same time.

How Can Parents Improve Their Direction-Following?

1.  Try to eliminate distractions before giving directions.   Distractions, including a radio, TV, or   others talking, make it harder for your child to listen to your directions.

2.  Make sure your child is listening when you give directions.  Make sure your child is listening when you give directions.  Get down to your child’s eye level so the child can see your facial expression.  Squat down if you have to.

3.  Pair gesture with directions.  Point to objects and their locations.  Try to use natural gesture, e.g.  “Come here” paired with the hand gesture.  “Give it to me” paired with your hand reaching for item.  “Go to your room and get your coat” paired with pointing to your child’s room.

4. Speak clearly and not too rapidly.

5.  Use repetition.  Repeating directions for your child is very helpful.  Give your child time to think about the directions before you repeat them.  With older children, you can ask your child to repeat your directions after you.  This “activates” your child’s memory.  It also tells you, if the child actually understood your directions.

There will be a second part to this post because ther is a lot of information about helping your child follow directions.

Your feedback is welcome.

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch 1/31/12 

Washington University study reports that positive reinforcement may increase brain size. by Blythe Bernhard where to purchase Premarin 314-340-8129

If your child forgets his lunch or struggles with school work, a little more loving might turn things around. 

Supportive mothers who practice positive reinforcement seem to help their children’s brains grow, according to new research from Washington University.

Brain scans show that school-age children of nurturing mothers have a 10 percent larger hippocampus-the region of the brain that plays a role in memory, learning and stress response-compared to the brains of children whose mothers were deemed less supportive.

The take-home message for working and stay-at-home parents is to praise children more than you scold them, the researchers said. 

“Parents might feel guilty because they’re working, and we work a lot as well,” said Dr. Kelly Botteron, a professor of child psychiatry and co-author of the study. “But when you’re home in the evening and you’re trying to rush through homework and trying to get dinner ready, if you remember to say a a couple nice, really positive things… I think a lot of parents could do that and it’s a practical thing that has very little risk to it.”

It’s long been known that orphans and other neglected children who are placed in loving homes can improve their behavior and health.  And while a link between nurturing mothers and their offspring’s brain growth has been established in rats, the study is the first to show the same anatomical process in humans.

As part of their ongoing research on childh00d depression, staff members watched how two groups of 92 children ages 3-5 interacted with their caregivers (usually mothers) during a stressful task.  One group of children had symptoms of depression and the others were assigned to a control group.

For the task, the mothers were told to fill out a questionnaire.  The child was given a wrapped present but told not to open it right away.  The  eight-minute “waiting task,” as it’s known, has been used by researchers as a reliable indicator of parental nurturing skills.  The task is thought to simulate situations at home, such as a parent distracted by cooking dinner while the child needs to focus on homework.

Researchers who reviewed the taped interactions rated the mother’s responses to their children’s behavior.  Mothers received points each time they praised the child’s patience or offered encouragement to not open the gift.

The researchers acknowledged they’re not getting a complete picture of family life, especially if Mom was having a bad day.  But they are confident that the results of the MRI brain scans on the kids, performed four years after the “waiting task,” indicate that children who have more supportive mothers also have bigger brains.

Children with less supportive mothers had a hippocampus volume that was 9.2 percent smaller than the children of more nurturing mothers.  In children with depression, the effects of nurturing were not as positive, and the researchers think the disease process has a greater impact on brain development.

The researchers plan to run second and third MRI brain scans on the children, who are now preteens, to watch for brain development over time.

Although the study wasn’t designed to look at fathers, foster parents or grandparents, the researchers said the positive effects of nurturing can come from any caregivers, which can be reasonably stretched to include teachers.

“If you know your child is in a difficult situation, to reinforce to them that you know it’s a hard situation but they’re doing such a great job, that’s the kind of parenting we would try to encourage,” Botteron said.

The researchers were careful to point out they’re not opposed to disciplining children or giving them boundaries.

“You should be supportive and nurturing, which is not the same as spoiling, and not the same as smothering,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Joan Luby, a professor of child psychiatry.

One local mom said it was exciting to hear that something she already believes in could have an effect on her children’s intellectual, and not just emotional, development.

“For a nurturing parent it’s both beautiful and frightening because many of us who spend a lot of nights wondering whether we’re doing everything we possibly can for our children, this falls into the category of one more thing to worry about,” said Danielle Smith of O’Fallon, MO, who has two young children and writes the blog “It sounds like a bonus to me, but I have to embrace the idea that what I’m doing is enough.”

Comment from Pam Hass, Speech Language Pathologist:  As we as caregivers and teachers of our children, in addition to being nurturing and supportive of our children, we also need to include our children in day to day conversations and make reading to our children a daily event.  Talking with  our children, listening  and responding to our children while they play or while we do our daily chores will help develop children’s language skills.  Reading to our children and talking with them about the story is very important in developing their language and cognitive skills.  

In my next blog, I will begin to list some language activities that families can do to stimulate both the understanding and expression of language.

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Reference:  Advance for Speech Pathologists and Audiologists  12/14/11

Sleep deprivation impacts academics and safety.

From memory to judgment, attention span, emotional stability and even immunity, sleep deprivation negatively affects school-age children,” reports Kristin Avis, MD, a sleep specialist and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UA.  Of children under age 18, 60 percent polled by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) complained of being tired during the day, and 15 percent reported falling asleep at school.

The NSF has guidelines for how much sleep children of various ages require.  Three-five year-olds need 11 to 13 hours per night, while 5-to 12-year olds need 10-11 hours.

“As for adolescents, it’s a common myth that they need less sleep and can handle only seven or eight hours,” said Dr. Avis.  “They actually need nine hours of sleep.  That’s typically the most sleep-deprived population in school.

A student can make up for the lack of one good night’s sleep, but going an entire school week without sufficient rest can be detrimental, she noted.  “You can sleep until noon on Saturday and feel caught up, but then you will go to bed later that night, sleep in on Sunday, and then repeat the cycle into the new school week.”

Children need a suitable amount of sleep every night.  Their bedrooms should be as tranquil as possible, which means removing noise-makers.

“On average, there are three to four electronic gadgets in a kid’s room,” Dr. Avis reported.  “It’s been shown that even sleeping with a television on deprives them of 20 minutes of sleep per night, which may not sound like a lot but adds up over a week’s time.

‘Cell phones are often used as an alarm clock, but for about $5 you  can invest in a real alarm clock so the phone can be turned off,” added Stephanie Wallace, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at UAB.

Dr. Avis is exploring further what a bad night’s rest can do to a child.  She and David Schwebel, PhD, professor of psychology and director of the Youth Safety Lab at UAB, are studying sleep deprivation and pedestrian injury and general safety among children.

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Reference: ADVANCE for Speech Language Pathologists- March 20,2011   
Adults with memory problems who participated in a home-based physical activity program experienced a modest improvement in cognitive function, compared to those who did not participate in the program, according to Australian researchers [JAMA, 300, (9): 1027-1037].

As the world population ages, the number of older adults living with Alzheimer’s disease is estimated to increase from the current 26.6 million to 106.2 million by 2050.  “If illness onset could be delayed by 12 months, 9.2 million fewer cases of Alzheimer’s disease would occur worldwide.  For this reason, attempts have been made to identify individuals who are at increased risk of Alzhiemer’s disease and to test interventions that might delay the progression of prodromal symptoms [early non-specific symptom, or set of symptoms] to full-blown dementia,” the authors wrote.

Nicola T. Lautenschlager, MD, of the University of Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues conducted a randomized controlled trial to test whether a physical activity intervention would reduce the rate of cognitive decline among 138 adults age 50 years and older at increased risk of dementia.  The participants, who reported memory problems but did not meet criteria for dementia, were randomly allocated to an education and usual care group or to a 24-week home-based program of physical activity.

The aim of the intervention was to encourage participants to perform at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, which participants were asked to complete in three 50-minute sessions each week.  The most frequently recommended type of activity was walking.  The intervention resulted in 142 minutes more physical activity per week or 20 minutes per day than with usual care.  Cognitive function was assessed with the Alzheimer Disease Asssessment Scale-Cognitive Subscale (ADAS-Cog; a measuring tool that consists of a number of  cognitive tests) over 18 months.

The researchers found that by the study’s end, participants in the exercise group had better ADAS-Cog scores and delayed recall than those in the usual care control group.  Participants in the physical activity group also had lower Clinical Dementia Rating scores than those in the usual care group.

“To our knowledge, this trial is the first to demonstrate that exercise improves cognitive function in older adults with subjective and objective mild cognitive impairment.  The benefits of physical activity were apparent after 6 months and persisted for at least another 12 months after the intervention had been discontinued.  The average improvement of 0.69 points on the ADAS-Cog score compared with the usual care control group at 18 months is small but potentially important when one considers the relatively modest amount of physical activity undertaken by participants in the study,” the authors write.

“Unlike medication, which was found to have no significant effect on mild cognitive impairment at 36 months, physical activity has the advantage of health benefits that are not confined to cognitive function alone, as suggested by findings on depression, quality of life, falls, cardiovascular function, and disability.