Archive for the ‘Help for your child’ Category

Special moms need special care

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

two women meditatingA new study published in Pediatrics shows that groups led by other moms reduced stress in mothers of children with disabilities. It helped to improve “maternal well-being and long-term caregiving for children with complex developmental, physical, and behavioral needs.” These support groups were uniquely focused on learning specialized techniques to reduce stress.

Mothers of children with developmental disabilities experience stress, anxiety and depression more often and to a greater degree than mothers who parent children without disabilities. It is thought that the chronic stress and the associated poor health that often result may impact a mom’s ability to parent effectively.

This study looked at what would happen if a program were put in place specifically for moms of children with disabilities (or what I will call “Special Moms”).  Researchers randomly assigned 243 Special Moms into two groups to attend a program led by peer mentors (eg. other Special Moms who received training to lead the groups).

One group learned Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) techniques while the other group learned Positive Adult Development (PAD) techniques. MBSR and PAD are evidence-based practices, which mean that they have been shown, through research, to be beneficial.

The MBSR group learned meditation, breathing and movement techniques and the relaxation response. The PAD group learned ways to “temper emotions such as guilt, conflict, worry and pessimism by identifying and recruiting character strengths and virtues…and by exercises involving gratitude, forgiveness, grace and optimism.” All the moms attended weekly group sessions and practiced what they learned at home on a daily basis.

What were the results?

According to the study, the moms in both groups experienced less stress, anxiety and depression, and improved sleep and life satisfaction.  After 6 months, these improvements continued. There were some differences between the two groups that related to whether they received the MBSR or PAD practice, but the important take-away from this study is that both treatments proved beneficial to the moms.

There are programs in place to help children with disabilities, but few programs exist to help their parents, especially when the stress causes mental, emotional and physical fatigue. Moms often become anxious or depressed, which does not help them as they face the intense daily challenges of parenting a child with a disability. This study shows the positive effect of proven stress reduction techniques when taught in a peer-mentored program.

The authors conclude that “future studies should be done on how trained mentors and professionals can address the mental health needs of mothers of children with developmental disabilities since doing so can improve maternal well-being and long-term caregiving for children with complex needs.”

Bottom line

If you are a Special Mom, your personal take-away message from this study is to try to include a stress reduction program into your daily life, such as meditation, yoga, or another relaxation technique. If you can do so with a group of other Special Moms, all the better!

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input.

Medication dosing mistakes are common

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

medicine syringe for kidsWhether you have a child with special needs or not, chances are you have given him medication at some point. A recent study published in Pediatrics revealed that many parents made mistakes when giving their child medication. “Medication errors were common: 39.4% of parents made an error in measurement of the intended dose, 41.1% made an error in the prescribed dose. Furthermore, 16.7% used a nonstandard instrument.”

The study compared parents who used milliliter-only cups or syringes with parents who used teaspoon or tablespoons to describe how they measured their child’s medicine. The researchers found that parents who described measuring the medication in teaspoons or tablespoons were twice as likely to make a mistake in giving the correct dose.

In addition, many parents did not understand the correct amount of medicine to give their child and mixed up the measuring terms. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), “Parent mix up of terms like milliliter, teaspoon and tablespoon contribute to more than 10,000 poison center calls each year.”

Why does this happen?

One reason is because all spoons are not created equal. Dosing mistakes happen because people confuse teaspoons with tablespoons. Did you know that one tablespoon equals three teaspoons?!

Another reason is that people use everyday kitchen spoons instead of medication measuring spoons which are specifically designed to give an accurate dose. Again, the differences in the spoons can produce very different amounts of medicine given to your child.

What can you do?

• When measuring meds, use the oral syringe, dropper, or cup that comes with the medication. Do not use one medicine’s cup for another medicine. Measure carefully and exactly.

• Do not use kitchen teaspoons or tablespoons because there is a wide variety of kitchen spoons which can hold vastly different amounts of liquid.

• If you are giving a non-prescription medication (such as Tylenol or any over-the-counter medicine), be sure to give the dose that is based on your child’s weight, not his age. If in doubt, ask a doctor, nurse, physician assistant or pharmacist.

• Keep a log. Use your smartphone or a notebook to record the medication, date, time and amount that you gave your child. It is very easy to forget when you gave your child a medication, especially if you are giving more than one medication at different times during the day. Parental fatigue, multitasking and stress can also cause you to forget.  In addition, a medication “log” is very important if more than one person is giving medicine to your child.

• If in doubt, ask your child’s health care provider or your pharmacist. It could save your child’s life.

Learn more

• Check out the AAP’s video guide on how to measure meds and read about useful medication tips here.

The study’s authors suggest that children’s liquid medications only be prescribed in milliliters to help eliminate dosing mistakes or confusion. The AAP and CDC support this change. What do you think?

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input.

Everyday tips for dealing with sensory special kids

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

hair washingMany kids with sensory issues struggle with typical everyday activities. Here are suggestions from parents of children with sensory difficulties to help you get through each day in a sensory friendly way.

Some kids find bath time and hair washing to be a stressful experience. For other children, getting dressed in the morning or eating meals can be incredibly challenging. Yet others cringe at hearing typical sounds or noises. Here is what some parents recommend:

Tips for bathing

•    Let your child get in the bath when the water temperature feels right to him. He may need to stand in it a while before sitting down, in order to adjust to the feel of the water on his skin.
•    During hair shampooing, use a little pail or plastic bucket to rinse hair instead of using the shower nozzle. Water coming from a shower nozzle can be too direct and forceful.
•    When your child is old enough, allow him to rinse his own hair. Being in control of the pail and the water on his own head is less shocking to him than when someone else pours water on his head.
•    Use a facecloth to cover his face if water on the face will cause distress. Then allow your child to wipe his own face with a damp facecloth.
•    Use distractions in the bath, such as bath foam or toys, to make bath time more appealing.
•    Let your child decide if showering is preferable to bathing (when he is old enough).

Tips for dressing

•    Remove tags from clothing before wearing.
•    Let your child decide what kinds of clothes feel good on his skin. Usually brushed flannel or soft cotton or acrylic fabrics work well, but your child will know.
•    If your child hates getting dressed in the morning (due to the sensory changes), dress your child the night before in the clothes he will wear the next day. In other words, let him wear his clean clothes to bed. He may look a tad more wrinkled in the morning, but he will get his day off in a sensory calm way.
•    When you find a pair of pants, a shirt or outfit that your child loves (i.e. it “feels right”), buy two of them. This way, one can be laundered when the other one is being worn. Or, buy them in different colors if possible. Comfort- not fashion -is key here.

Tips for eating

•    As much as possible, have healthy choices available. If you know your child loves chicken with pasta, then child using forkmake a double portion. This way you can feed it to him another night in the same week, even if the rest of the family is eating something different. This allows you to eat together as a family and yet you did not cook two meals in one evening.
•    Freeze individual portions for meals on the fly, for the babysitter to serve to him, or when the family meal is sure to be too hard for your child to swallow (literally).
•    Ask your child’s pediatrician or consult with a Registered Dietician who is familiar with sensory issues to learn other ways of getting your child to eat a healthy diet. Perhaps mixing vitamin powder into your child’s food (such as spaghetti sauce) or offering protein shakes will substitute nutrients that your child may be missing.

Tips for sound sensitivity

•    Prepare your child for events that may be uncomfortable, such as large assemblies with people clapping, musical events, a meal in a big restaurant, birthday parties, etc. Soft ear plugs are often helpful to use at these events so keep them handy. Other children prefer noise-cancelling headphones.
•    Once home, provide a quiet environment so your child’s ears can rest.

Learn more

These are just a few tips for getting through a day in a sensory successful way. See my prior posts: Sensory difficulties in children to learn more about the different kinds of sensory problems that exist, and Help for sensory issues to learn about different treatments. Ask your child’s pediatrician if a treatment such as Sensory Integration Therapy (a form of Occupational Therapy) may be helpful. You can also discuss other treatments which are available.

Feel free to share what has worked for you and your child. We’d love to hear from you!

If you have questions, or would like more information, please write to us at AskUs@marchofdimes.com.

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input.

Fireworks are not fun for kids with sensitive hearing

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

fireworks displayFor kids with sensitive hearing, fireworks can be frightful instead of fabulous. Here are some tips to get your child to still enjoy this colorful display without suffering pain.

July 4th…the very date evokes images of summer: flags waving, backyard barbeques, ice cream, home town parades and amazing fireworks displays celebrating our nation’s independence. It should be a fun, patriotic display of colors and designs in the night sky, but for kids whose hearing is extra sensitive to sound, it ends up being a torturous event. The loud popping of the firework explosions at unexpected moments creates anxiety and panic. Add to that the additional noisemakers on July 4th such as firecrackers, and this day of celebration for most people becomes a painful day for a child with sensitivities (and a challenging day for his family).

What can you do?

Aside from avoiding firework displays altogether, here are some ways to enjoy them:

•    First, see if you can watch a fireworks display on TV or DVD before going to a live display. Letting your child understand what a fireworks display is all about will help decrease anxiety. Sometimes towns offer fireworks displays on the weekend after the 4th so you can view a TV display beforehand.

•    Park a distance away from the crowds and firework display, and stay in your car. The noise may be muffled enough to allow your child to enjoy the visual display without being close to the noise. Your child will also feel more protected.

•    Have your child use ear plugs or noise cancelling headphones. With the ear plugs, he can still hear some noises and conversations, but the offensive sounds will be significantly decreased.

•    Alternatively, have your child listen to his favorite music (either with ear buds or on the car radio) as the fireworks are going on. It will help camouflage the offending sounds.

Remember, your child cannot help being hyper-sensitive to sound. It is not something he can control. It is painful and upsetting for him to be around sounds that hurt his ears. So, learning how to enjoy events on his terms is key to being able to attend or participate.

For a longer term solution, speak with your child’s pediatrician about possible treatments. Also, email AskUs@marchofdimes.com and request additional resources. We can refer you to a list of books written for children (to help them understand why they feel sensitive) as well as books written for adults (to help you understand your child’s sensory issues). We’re happy to help you!

We hope everyone has a safe and happy 4th of July holiday!

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input.

It’s good – no, great – to read to your baby

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

readingRead to your baby- it’s fun for both of you. And now the AAP says it is important for your baby’s language and brain development, too. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Someone once asked me how old my children were when I started reading to them. Honestly, it was not like I flipped a switch and then pulled out a book. I read to them as soon as they could open their eyes. I remember my son being on my lap and barely able to hold his head up as I read him a soft “baby book” with huge, colorful shapes and pictures. He sat there enthralled, gazing at the colors with wide eyes. Sometimes he would lunge forward to touch the colors. He was barely three months old.

When I gave birth to my daughter two years later, I would sit on my large blue chair with my son on one leg and my daughter nestled on my arm on my other leg. My son would turn the pages and I would read to both of them. I treasured our special time together, and my kids absolutely loved it. Even though my kids are in their twenties now, I still have the “reading chair” and just sitting in it evokes the sweetest of memories for me. But, perhaps the best part of this bonding ritual was that both my children grew to love reading at a very early age.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is actively urging pediatricians to tell parents to read to their child from infancy. Reading aloud helps to promote language skills – vocabulary, speech, and later reading comprehension, literacy and overall intelligence. The AAP suggests that pediatricians extol the virtues of reading to children at each “well child” visit. Reading to your child is right up there with proper nutrition and vaccinations. Yup – according to science, reading aloud to kids is good for them.

Where to get books

You don’t need to own a large library to read to your child. Kids love repetition and will ask to hear the same story over and over again. (How many times did I read Go Dog Go by P.D. Eastman?!!!). But if you just can’t pick up that same book again, head to your local library where the children’s section is sure to bring out your inner child. As your baby gets older, make reading interactive – have him point to the truck when you say the word. Then have him repeat the word or say it with you. Watch as his vocabulary begins to grow. You can practically “see” the connections being made.

Another place to acquire books for a home library is at second hand stores or even recycling stations. The “dump” in the town where I raised my kids has a book shed where you can drop off or pick up used books for free. And don’t forget, garage or yard sales are great places to get books for nickels. Having a mini-library at home has been shown to help children get off on the right academic foot.

When your little one is a toddler, check out library story hours for parents or caregivers and children. It may soon become the highlight of your week.

Bottom line

It is never too early to start reading to your baby or too late to start reading to your child. Not only will reading aloud help to boost language skills from an early age, but it will promote bonding and closeness between you and your child. Who knows what world a book may open up to you and your baby?

So, grab a book, snuggle up and start reading. You’ll never regret it.

 

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input. Email AskUs@marchofdimes.com.

 

Help for sensory issues

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

child in ball pitSensory issues can make or break your child’s day, and yours. Last week I discussed the different kinds of sensory problems that many kids experience. Today I offer some treatment options based on parent feedback.

For all of the senses, and especially for tactile sensitivities (touch), Sensory Integration (SI) therapy, a specific kind of therapy used by occupational therapists, has been a popular form of treatment. A recent study showed that a group of autistic children who received SI therapy reduced sensory difficulties in contrast to the children who did not receive SI therapy. It is thought that this form of therapy helps your child’s brain adapt to sensory information so that he can make adjustments in his daily life.

The therapy is lots of fun – it usually involves balls, swings and other game-like movements that engage the senses. It also can include wearing compression clothing to help decrease sensory seeking behavior. Although it has been around for several decades, SI therapy has not been studied until more recently. The American Occupational Therapy Association has information about sensory issues and SI therapy on their website and on this factsheet. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reminds parents there is limited data on the use of sensory based therapies and recommends that parents and pediatricians work together to determine if SI therapy would be appropriate for your child.

Treatment for eating issues

Since good nutrition is important for health and growth, you may find yourself at your wits end to get your child  to eat a balanced diet. For children with aversions to many foods, occupational therapy may help, too. There are various methods that a therapist may use to gradually get your child used to different textures or tastes.

You might also ask your pediatrician if multivitamins or other supplements are recommended, especially if your child’s taste issues has made it so that he does not eat many foods. I used to open vitamin capsules and mix them in my daughter’s food (such as spaghetti sauce) in order to ensure she got her daily dose of essential vitamins and minerals. Smoothies with vitamins or protein powder may also be a good substitute or addition to a meal.

Another option is to speak with a Registered Dietitian (RD) who specializes in children’s eating issues; they are trained to know how to create balanced diets and often have experience with children who have sensory issues. Ask your child’s doc or call your local hospital for a referral.

Other treatments

Some parents report that acupuncture as well as other kinds of treatment have helped their child decrease sensitivity.  Again, consulting with your child’s pediatrician is important before deciding on a treatment plan.

Where to get more info

  • The March of Dimes’ online community Share Your Story offers a way for parents to share their experiences and treatments for children experiencing sensory problems. Feel free to log on and join a discussion or ask a question.  Parents sharing ideas and information is key to helping your child overcome obstacles.
  • Email AskUs@marchofdimes.com and request additional resources. We can refer you to a list of books written for children (to help them understand why they feel sensitive) as well as books written for adults (to help you understand your child’s sensory issues). We’re happy to help you!

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input.

Sensory difficulties in children

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Itchy shirt. Icky foods. Hair brushing is a nightmare. Shoes won’t stay on. Sounds make him cringe.
child dislikes food

Picky child or sensory dysfunction?

Our five senses: taste, smell, hearing, touch and sight help us navigate so much of our world. But for some children (and even adults), their senses are especially heightened and can interfere with daily life in a negative way.

•    Taste and smell
Parents often complain that their child can’t tolerate the taste or smell of many foods. Feeding their child becomes a nightmare. When my daughter was little, she would only eat approximately 10 foods (if that). She did not like the taste or smell of most foods and could not stay in the same room when I was cooking broccoli or another offending food.  She preferred sweets to salty treats, and a vegetable would not pass her lips (she would rather die fighting!).  Even if cajoled or bribed (yes – I bribed her) to eat a new food, she would often gag on it because the taste, smell or texture was too awful for her. As she grew up she would relate that she wanted to eat more foods, and was not happy that she had such a limited range of foods she found acceptable to eat. But, alas, it was not something she could control.

•    Sound
child coveringn earsAnother common sensory complaint is that of a hearing sensitivity. Certain sounds or noises are painful to hear. I am not talking about a rock concert or music being cranked on the highest volume. The bothersome sounds could be the barking of a dog, the crinkling of tin foil, the din of the voices in a cafeteria, the sound of a blender, hair dryer or vacuum cleaner. Typical sounds are abnormally loud to a child with a sound sensitivity and may cause him to cover his ears (at best) or disengage socially (at worst).

•    Touch
Other children are extra sensitive to touch. For example, they hate the feeling of certain clothes against their skin. They dislike getting dressed or undressed, and may have a vast wardrobe but will only wear three outfits! Clothes that are scratchy, have tags or are not soft enough for their skin will be tossed aside.  They may resist going into a bath (or getting out of the bath) due to the uncomfortable sensory changes on their skin. Similarly, applying sunscreen becomes a feat in and of itself.

•    Sight
Lastly, some children are extra sensitive visually. For example, bright lights, flashing lights and the change from indoor light to sunlight can make them close their eyes or head in the opposite direction.

Any one of the above sensory issues can wreak havoc on your child’s life – and yours. Some children have difficulties with more than one sense, too. There is debate as to whether sensory dysfunction is a diagnosis in and of itself, or if it is a symptom of a larger diagnosis (such as ADHD, autism, or another disorder). The important thing to remember is that for whatever reason, and whatever you want to call it, these sensory issues are real challenges in your child’s life.

In many cases, these sensitivities may be reduced through occupational therapy (read this post on OT) and through other kinds of treatments. If your child is extra sensitive, speak with his pediatrician and ask if OT or another kind of treatment may be helpful.

Stay tuned for future blog posts on treatment options and helpful hints for the above sensory issues.

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input. If you have questions, please send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.com.

Preemies- adjusted age and delays

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

toddler with pig tailsAll babies develop at their own rate. But there is a special way to determine if premature babies are developing as they should.

Babies who are born prematurely have two ages: chronological and adjusted.  Chronological age is the age of your baby from the day of his birth—the number of days, weeks or years old that your baby has been in the outside world.  Adjusted age is the developmental age of your baby based on his due date (when he would have been born).

To calculate adjusted age, take your premature baby’s chronological age and subtract the number of weeks your baby was premature.  For example, a baby who has a chronological age of 10 weeks but was born 4 weeks early has an adjusted age of 6 weeks. (10 – 4 = 6)

Why is this important?

Since so much of a baby’s growth and development takes place during pregnancy, babies who are born prematurely miss out on valuable developmental time. As a result, they may lag behind other babies who share their actual birthday. Health care providers may use your baby’s adjusted age when they evaluate your baby’s growth and development.

An infant who is 12 months old but was born 2 months early (and consequently has an adjusted age of 10 months) should not be compared to other 12 month old babies. Instead, he should be compared to other 10 month old babies. Then, his growth and development will seem more in line with typical developmental milestones.

Measuring delays

As your child grows, it may become awkward to constantly have two ages. Hopefully, as time passes, he will begin catching up to his chronologically same-aged peers. Some preemies catch up completely; others have delays or developmental issues that last for years. No two children are exactly alike. But, if you understand that your preemie should be evaluated based on his adjusted age (especially in the early months/years of his life), then it becomes easier to determine if he is delayed and if he is making timely progress.

You can learn more about developmental milestones in preemies by watching our video.

Get help early

If your child is not meeting his developmental milestones or is at risk of having a delay, specialists may be needed to help optimize your baby’s progress. Just as a person may need physical therapy to improve movement after an injury, a toddler who was born prematurely may need physical therapy to help him learn to move or walk. Many preemies have vision or hearing problems which may cause speech difficulties; the help of a speech therapist can make all the difference in helping him learn to talk. Likewise, through the help of an occupational therapist your child may overcome many challenges associated with the different aspects of daily life – from feeding and sitting in a chair to socializing.

Fortunately, in the United States, the Early Intervention program is there to help babies and toddlers who are experiencing developmental delays. Read this blog series to learn how to access this system and help your child get off on the right foot. If you suspect that your child is struggling or is delayed, it is best to get help as soon as possible – don’t delay with delays.

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input. If you have questions, please send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.com.

 

The power of one M&M’s® candy

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

potty trainingTrying to sculpt or change your child’s behavior is easier said than done. But here is a story of how one M&M’s candy changed everything.

Years ago, when my children were very young, I attended a “mommy and baby” parenting class. While the children played, the parents discussed child development issues under the guidance of an early childhood development specialist. Potty training was always a hot topic. Potty training has its challenges – first day-time training, and then night-time training. One mom (let’s call her Lynn), told the story of how she was able to successfully potty train her child at night. Lynn had been successful with getting her son to use the potty during the day, but he refused to get up at night if he needed to use the toilet, and instead he wet the bed.

Her son loved M&M’s, and Lynn often used them (in tiny doses) to reinforce desired behavior. However, she was at a loss as to how to reinforce positive behavior (going to the potty) at night.

Her solution was to place one M&M’s candy on a paper plate, which she then placed on top of the closed toilet seat cover. She showed her son the M&M on the plate before bedtime, and told him if he gets up to use the potty during the night, he could eat the M&M as his reward. The thought of eating an M&M in the middle of the night was simply too appealing to her little son, and much to everyone’s shock, he got up to use the potty. This little guy absolutely loved the idea of knowing an M&M was waiting for him. He got up to use the potty just to be able to get that tiny candy coated chocolate. Such was the power of one M&M.

At first, each time he got up and used the potty at night, he ran into his parents’ bedroom and announced his achievement. But, soon, he would simply get up and use the potty, eat his M&M and head back to his bed.

Needless to say, I was intrigued by Lynn’s story. As I was going through the trials and tribulations of potty training my daughter, I decided to try it. I did exactly what Lynn had done, and my daughter reacted the exact same way as her son, including waking me up to tell me the news of her success. Soon I added another layer to get her to head back to sleep on her own:  I placed one M&M by her bedside to be eaten if she went back to bed without waking Mommy or Daddy. That ploy worked, too.

I have to say, after about 3 weeks of this training, I used to get up in the morning and peek into the bathroom to see if the paper plate was empty or not. I did the happy dance every time I saw that the plate was missing the M&M.  The sense of pride and accomplishment in my child also made me do the happy dance. But, most of all, I could not believe the power of that one M&M. Can you? How could such a tiny bit of positive reinforcement have such an effect?!

Behavior specialists tout the benefits of positive reinforcement as a means of shaping behavior. People love rewards and praise – it is human nature. But as this story proves, the reward does not have to be huge or expensive – often the tiniest rewards have the biggest impact. The key is having the reward be meaningful to the child.

Do you have a story to share of how you shaped your child’s behavior through positive reinforcement? We’d love to hear it.

 

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input. If you have questions, please send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.com.

Fortune cookie advice

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

fortune cookieThe other day I opened a fortune cookie and read:  “Help people reach their full potential. Catch them doing something right.” I was surprised to see such a sentiment in a fortune cookie. I know that this concept is true for shaping a child’s behavior – if you want to change their behavior, catch them doing something good and praise them for it. Your praise reinforces the behavior which makes your child want to keep doing it. (As opposed to your child only hearing what he is doing wrong which erodes his self- esteem and makes him want to stop trying.)  But I had never considered this concept as applying to all individuals, especially to adults.

When I stop to think about it, isn’t it human nature to want to keep doing those things that you are doing well and avoid tasks that you do poorly?  As an adult, I like doing those things that I believe I do well, and I generally steer clear of those tasks that are hard for me. I also enjoy doing things that I like and I avoid doing tasks that I simply don’t like to do. Hmmm. This sounds too logical for me.

I found this fortune cookie message to be powerful – it not only applies to parents trying to shape their child’s behavior in a positive way – it applies to all individuals, at home, at work and anywhere.  Do you ever tire of hearing that you are meeting or exceeding goals at work? How do you feel when your spouse or partner recognizes your efforts? Doesn’t all that positive feedback help you to carry on and persevere? If you never received a kind word, encouragement, or a raise in your salary at your job, I bet you would assume you weren’t doing well and perhaps stop trying so hard. Positive reinforcement goes a long way in helping to shape behavior in any individual, including children with special needs. Check out the American Academy of Pediatrics’s tips on positive reinforcement through rewards for ideas on how to get started shaping your child’s behavior in a positive way.

Child behavior experts have long advocated that you should acknowledge and praise a child when he gets it right. And, now, my fortune cookie agrees.

Stay tuned for more helpful information on the power of positive reinforcement in upcoming blog posts.

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input. If you have questions, please send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.com.