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Why Testing Matters to Your Child’s Education

April 14, 2015

By Maureen Powers

Why Testing Matters to Your Child’s Education | Standardized tests aren't just an annoyance to parents, students, and teachers-- they're critical for state funding. Learn why these tests matter for your child's education. | A student fills in the multiple choice circles with a pencil on a test.

It’s spring and your child’s school is gearing up for standardized state assessments. Children are stressed, teachers are tense, and everyone just wants to get through testing season. Is all this anxiety necessary? Yes! Schools and teachers have a lot to lose if standardized assessments are not taken seriously.

By law, every state in the U.S. must administer state achievement tests to measure what students know and are able to do. The operating budgets in many school districts are often determined by the results of student growth on state standardized assessments. Many public schools have adopted performance pay, which gives teachers additional money if their students score well. In short, more money in schools means your children will be more likely to receive a better education.

Now that you know why these tests are so important to your child’s overall education, what can you do to help?

  • Make sure your child is in attendance all days of testing. Many schools are penalized for poor student attendance, which will affect funding.
  • Encourage your child to do his or her best and express your confidence in him or her. Anxiety and fear of failure can affect test performance.
  • With your child, explore the test questions for the standardized assessment in your state well in advance of the test. Cramming is not a good strategy, as these tests measure knowledge gained over time, not simple facts.
  • The assessment results are often available only after school is out for summer vacation. Make an appointment to speak with your child’s teacher at the beginning of the new school year to go over the results of the standardized assessments so you know your student’s strengths and opportunities for improvement and you are in a better position to advocate for him or her.
  • Visit the US Department of Education website for additional ways to help your child succeed.

By knowing why these standardized tests matter and how they can impact your child’s education, you can hopefully use these tips to help your child study and perform to the best of his or her ability.

Want more tips on preparing your child for academic success? Our YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books help parents from birth through high school graduation and beyond. Now available on Amazon

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Early Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder is Key to Managing Symptoms

April 9, 2015

By Noralba Martinez

Early Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder is Key to Managing Symptoms | The puzzle pieces for Autism Awareness Month

Have you started seeing blue and white puzzle pieces around this month? April is Autism Awareness Month and the puzzle piece is a symbol associated with Autism Awareness. We hear a lot about Autism in the news, but what really is Autism and why is early diagnosis so important?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a “group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges,” according to the CDC. Think of it this way: if a child has sensory processing difficulties, he or she might scream nonstop when an airplane flies by or an ambulance’s sirens start up unexpectedly. Bright lights, unfamiliar noises, social settings, wind, or even textured foods can affect a child with ASD by leading that child to communicate his or her feelings by screaming, running away, or throwing a tantrum.

As an early intervention specialist and licensed professional counselor for an Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) program, I have worked with many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Like many other mental or physical disorders, the earlier doctors and parents know that a child has ASD, the earlier they can start managing and treating those symptoms.

About the Disorder

  • In order to diagnose ASD, doctors must evaluate a child’s behavior and overall development. The severity and symptoms vary between each person with ASD.
  • In the mental health and medical fields, the ASD diagnosis now includes pervasive developmental disorder, autistic disorder, and Asperger syndrome.
  • The exact cause of ASD is unknown and still being researched, but the CDC has published some known risk factors.

Symptoms

  • Symptoms to look for in a young child include: Limited language, speech impairment or delays, social-emotional delays, sensory processing difficulties, repetitive behavior or movements, fixation on items, limited eye contact, poor coping skills, difficulty with changes in routine, and/or lack of play skills. If your child or someone you know is experiencing two or more of these symptoms, please talk to your child’s pediatrician. 
  • Symptoms may be more noticeable in the first years of life. Keeping all well-baby check-ups is important for screenings and referrals.

Early Diagnosis

  • Early diagnosis of ASD is key to begin treatment and therapy to alleviate the severity of some symptoms.
  • Early intervention therapy, coaching, and support are available for children diagnosed with ASD and their families.

Bring awareness to ASD and share this information with your family and other parents. When in doubt about your child’s development, call your pediatrician or local ECI agency for a screener or evaluation. You are your child’s best advocate because you know him or her better than anyone else. If you do discover your child has ASD, work with your doctor and ECI agency to find a treatment plan that best manages your child’s symptoms.

Learn more about important milestones, well-baby checkups, and other best health practices for your child in our YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books. 

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Consider These 3 Factors When Disciplining Your Child

April 7, 2015

By Nely Bergsma

Consider These 3 Factors When Disciplining Your Child | Some forms of physical discipline are considered child abuse. To avoid harming your child, follow these three guidelines. | The logo of the National Child Abuse Prevention Month, which resembles stained glass.

Image courtesy of National Child Abuse Prevention Month and ChildWelfare.gov.

Some of us parents come from homes where we were physically disciplined, and that level of physical discipline would now be considered child abuse (we’re not just talking spanking, here). In honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, we all should evaluate our physical disciplinary methods toward our children.

First, we need to acknowledge that at one point or another (and likely on many occasions), your child will push your buttons. But it’s important to remember that he or she is not causing your response. An issue that makes you feel like physically lashing out at your child may be a deep-rooted issue from your very own early years or an anger management problem that you can work on.

Some forms of physical discipline are considered child abuse, and there is a difference between the two. To ensure your methods of discipline are unquestionably not abusive, consider these options for non-physical ways to discipline your kids and for keeping your anger in check around them.

  1. Set parameters with your child. Begin at an early age to create behavioral expectations and establish a mutual respect between you and your child.
  2. Give yourself a time out. If your child is old enough to be left alone, walk just a fair distance away from them in an angry moment and slowly count to 30. If your child is younger, place him or her in a crib, playpen, or stroller and then walk just a fair distance away and count to 30. Take an additional minute or two to calm down if you need. You can then return to your child and calmly emphasize the expectations you have set between the two of you.
  3. Self Check. Remind yourself of those things that make you angry. Try to pinpoint the origin of these feelings. You might discover that they come from your childhood. Quickly remind yourself that you are no longer a child. Let go of any feelings of helplessness you may have felt as a child and embrace the fact that you are now an adult and are in control.

All of us enter the world of parenting affected in some way from our own childhoods, and our kids will remind us of those memories, both good and bad. We can expect our children to act out in ways that may drive us crazy at times. However, it is our responsibility as the grownup in the situation to stay as sane and in control of our emotions as possible. You are free to make choices and there is “no right way to do the wrong thing.”

You don’t want to hurt your child in any way, and the best way to avoid doing that in a difficult situation is to take a breather, follow these guidelines, and seek outside help if you feel your emotions have gotten the best of you and are at risk of hurting your child.

Learn more about appropriate child discipline in our YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books, which help parents from birth through high school graduation and beyond. Now available on Amazon

Tags :  parentinghealthsafetyphysical
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My Story: How I Found Great + Affordable Daycare in Head Start

April 2, 2015

By Nikki Cecala

My Story: How I Found Great + Affordable Daycare in Head Start | Struggling to find affordable daycare? Depending on your household income, your child may be eligible for Early Head Start. | In the photo, a group of preschool kids join arms together and smile for the camera.

Like most parents, I want what is best for my child. One of those things is daycare. The benefits of daycare are well-worth the cost, which include developing social, emotional, and academic skills, providing supervised physical activity, and taking some of that responsibility off of a parent’s plate. But it can be a struggle to afford daycare, especially if you are a single parent, one-income household, or have multiple children. According to Michelle McCready of Child Care Aware America, a childcare advocacy group, “it’s the highest single household expense in most regions of the country.”

As I added up the numbers, I realized that three days of daycare a week for my son would cost me as much as a month’s rent. Some daycares cost even more. I became very discouraged that I couldn’t give my son the daycare and education I knew he would benefit from because I wasn’t making enough money. As my search continued, I discovered a program called Head Start.

According to their website, “Head Start promotes the school readiness of young children from low-income families through agencies in their local community.” There are two programs: Early Head Start serves infants, toddlers, and pregnant women; Head Start primarily serves three and four year olds. Together, these affordable programs support a child’s development from birth through age five, addressing mental, social, and emotional development.

You can learn more about these programs on their website, including locations, how to apply, and how much funding the state provides for the programs. Having gone through the application process, from initial research to acceptance, I can offer some tips to help you pick a program that fits your and your child’s needs.

Research
Take the time to research everything you can about the program you wish to enroll your child in. I found Yelp quite useful. The reviews are honest and most are directly from the parents.

Update your child’s information
Make sure your child’s doctor appointments are up-to-date, including their shots, dental visits, and anything else.

Plan a visit
Most Head Start programs will allow you to bring your son or daughter to sit in for a half day at the facility. This is a great opportunity to check out how the place is run, how the children act and most importantly, to see if it’s a good fit for your child. Observe and ask as many questions as you need to in order to make the right decision.

Timing + Pricing
Once you select a program, there may be a waiting period, but it might be quicker than you expect. I called a few facilities and was told I could bring my son the following week. The Head Start directors will ask you a variety of questions, including your living situation and monthly income, to help give you the best monthly fee they can. In my opinion, it is extremely affordable compared to a daycare and worth looking into.

Are you already using the Head Start program? Tell me about your experiences in the comments below.

Want to learn more about early childhood? Our YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books help parents from birth through high school graduation and beyond. Now available on Amazon

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