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Judith Loseff Lavin
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Problem Solvers
Fast and simple information on a variety of topics.

Helping Your Child Convey Their Thoughts
Know how it is when your child is telling a story and she or he’s meandering all over the place but not ever getting to the point of the story? All you want to say is “GET TO THE POINT ALREADY!” But, of course, you can’t.

So… a better way to help your child convey his thoughts at a time when he may not be able to retrieve the words or insert the pertinent details so you CAN understand what he’s saying is by helping him structure his thinking which will then help him structure his language. For example, ask him to give you his thoughts in one sentence, telling you the first thing, the second thing and the third thing in the order that it occurred. This is called a temporal order. You can also ask him or her to give you the information in its order of importance. That way you are helping your child focus his or her information so that he can retrieve it and convey his thoughts so he can be understood..

Creative Use of Toys to Develop Understanding
Miaja Rocciola, mother of Lexi, born with congenital hydrocephalus, came up with a great way to use toys. “I often choose toys that will help her understand not only her differences, but others’ as well; like a doll that comes with a wheelchair, a brain book or a simple doctor kit,” she says in the winter 2003 Hydrocephalus Association newsletter.

Rocciola says that doctor kits can be especially useful to kids who see doctors many times each year. The kits allow children to act out what is happening to them so they can better understand themselves. Doctor’s kits can also help parents explain to their children what the child is about to undergo. Rocciola says it even helped younger daughter understand what was happening to Lexi. For those who want a more medically correct doctor’s kit, complete with tongue depressor, prescription pad, pencil, wooden syringe, wooden “pills,” ointment tube, wooden spoon, four bandages and an elastic bandage, you can order from Rocciola at or call tol-free at 1888-50-BELLA. The kit sells for $23--$5 of that, goes to the Hydrocephalus Association.

Advocating for Your Child at School
Here's another thought for advocating for your child at school. When you have a school meeting, in addition to meeting with his or her teacher(s) to explain your son or daughter's situation, include the school nurse, even the gym teacher, in the conference. This helps, particularly, if your child needs medications at school, or has periods of time when he or she doesn't feel well during the day. If your child has an invisible or slightly visible condition, bring written information about your child's health challenges to the meeting so everyone knows he or she isn't "faking" the condition.

If your child has an undiagnosed symptoms, it's a good idea to bring a note from your primary care physician to the meeting explaining your son or daughter's issues.

I also advise parents to bring an advocate to IEP meetings. You need someone--a doctor, nurse, speech or other therapist, social worker--who understands your child's condition and needs, as well as his or her rights and the educational system. This not only helps you to have a second set of ears in the room so you feel more confident, but also the educators who are trying to work out an educational plan for your child.

Disability Rights
For those of you who are interested in learning more about disability rights, contact ADAinformation, the Americans with Disabilities Act Information Line at 1-800-513-0301 (VOICE) OR 1800-514-0383 (tdd). The U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division has free materials that give tremendous information. You can also obtain general and technal infomration from them and they provide a fax-back service for their materials. The ADA Home Page is www.usdoj.gove/crt/ada/adahom1.htm .
This is an easy-to-use resource.

Helping Children Become Morally Aware
In a book by Laura E. Berk, called INFANTS AND CHILDREN: Prenatal Through Middle Childhood, I came across the inductive displine childraising technique and I thought it was helpful. Inductive discipline is a type of discipline that helps kids develop consciences. What you do is point out to the child the consequences of his misbehavior on others by showing him how his incorrect actions hurt or will hurt, another person. So, if Andy, your child, has grabbed , Sam's, favorite toy--or looks like he is going to grab it, you say: "Andy, you're going to make Sam cry, if you grab his toy." With that information, Andy begins to learn cause and effect. He also can become motivated towards pro-social behavior.

According to Berk, you can use inductive reasoning to teach children who are as young as 2 years old. Berk says that studies show that parents who used inductive reasoning, had youngsters who were more empathetic, sympathetic and exhibited increased prosocial behaviors.

Interestingly enough, Berk also points out that heavy discipline that relies on threatening punishments or withdrawal of love gives children such high levels of anxiety and fear that it actually prevents them from thinking clearly enough to figure out the appropriate way to act.

Helping Children Develop Values
If you want your child to adopt your values and or ideas, criticizing or belittling his or her behaviors won’t help. It often creates exactly the behavior that you’re trying to stop.

So, here’s another option that proves successful.

*Use “I” sentences to express your feelings and beliefs.
*Stay calm and friendly, while talking to your child.
*Don’t worry if the behavior doesn’t stop immediately, it takes time.

You dislike your daughter Jenny’s newest friend Lynn. Lynn not only is a terrible influence on Jenny, because she is dishonest, but also is possessive of Jenny’s friendship to the point of trying to destroy any other relationships Jenny may have.

Jenny, who has learning disabilities, befriends Lynn because, like so many others with special needs, Jenny craves peer acceptance and her friendship with Lynn, makes her feel accepted. What’s more, Jenny stays friends with Lynn because Lynn’s dishonesty makes Jenny feel that she’s superior to Lynn—another ego boost for Jenny. (Special parents know that their kids can so want to be included that they can too easily form unhealthy friendships just to help themselves boost their own self confidence.)

You, however, want to discourage this bond. Read on for an example of what may work:

Jenny: Mom, I’m really upset because Lynn is not only spreading untrue rumors about me to my friends, but she lies to me about different things.

Mom: Jenny, I wouldn’t be able to trust someone who doesn’t tell the truth. Do you feel obligated to be her friend?

Jenny: I don’t know. But, anyway, I can’t just drop her as a friend.

Mom: No, you can’t be unkind, but if it were me, I’d want to distance myself from her. I couldn’t make plans with her all of the time, or have her over to my house. I can’t be friends with someone who lies to me. I need to trust my friends.

Without lecturing or criticizing, you’ve planted the seeds of your values in your child’s mind. She or he will begin to think about what you’ve said. Don’t be surprised if you have to have several small conversations like this one before you see change. It often takes time to ride out a situation. But, while’ you’re riding it out, keep talking.

Judith Lavin, M.S.W., author of Special Kids Need Special Parents, and a former journalist with the Chicago Sun-Times, recognized the need for an easy-to-read resource for physically and emotionally exhausted parents like herself, as well as their families, teachers, doctors and others who work with them. Lavin speaks to numerous organizations and parent groups around the nation, giving them inspiration and hope.

Lavin’s work has been featured in numerous publications such as the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, Newsday, Washington Parent and Chicago Parent. In addition, she has appeared  on radio and TV news and talk shows around the U.S., including NBC-TV's Today show, PBS-TV's Small Talk for Parents and the CBS Radio Networks. You can visit Judy at