The 411 on Oak Creek Academy’s Big Announcement!

Did you know that Oak Creek Academy is the only school of its kind in central Texas? Oak Creek Academy is a non-profit, fully inclusive K-12 school that believes every child deserves a high-quality learning program that addresses the social-emotional, language, cognitive, and physical aspects of a child’s development. We have therapy services available in-house for speech, occupational, physical and behavioral so that children can receive the services they need with minimal disruption to their learning day. All our teachers and paraprofessionals are highly-qualified and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) trained. Not only are we empowering the lives of children with special needs, behavior challenges, or struggles not addressed by the public-school system, we are having a huge impact on the community at large. And now, Oak Creek Academy needs help from the very community it serves.

First, we wanted to address a question we get asked a lot about fundraising as a private school. As a non-profit, private school we do not receive government funding the way public schools do. Our tuition costs are also below the state average for a private school education in Texas – we do this to keep the costs as low as possible for parents. Tuition at Oak Creek Academy predominately covers faculty and teacher salaries, but must also be budgeted to cover facility maintenance and operations, utilities, daily supplies such as toiletries and cleaning products, sanitation and cleaning of the school, field trips, school events, training and staff development, providing and upgrading technologies, and more. This leaves very little left over to go towards larger, more costly projects.

Okay, let us get on to the truly exciting part! Oak Creek Academy has been renting at its current location for the past five years, these are the hallways and classrooms our students know and love. Last year KISD announced its plans to sell the property in a sealed bid. Now, drum roll please… we are in the final stages of purchasing our building – meaning 1020 Trimmier Rd will be the official home for Oak Creek Academy for generations to come! Education Connection, Central Texas Behavioral Solutions, and Elite Therapy get to continue their journey with our school. Children will go on to walk these halls, growing and learning in a fully inclusive and accepting environment. Stayed tuned for more to come on our accreditation process (more exciting news!)

We are so excited for what is to come and to officially have a place to call home. However, the once Fowler Elementary building is older with many outdated systems – meaning it is in dire need of upgrades and renovations. This is something we were aware of coming into the sale, as we have spent time and money on maintenance over the years to include plumbing. However, the amount of space we need to operate at our fullest and best left little in the way of alternative locations for our school. With the impending sale of the building we had to make a decision, which meant keeping our students where they were loved in classrooms they love. Now, our most immediate need deals with six classrooms that will not have central heat this winter. The HVAC units in these classrooms do not work with many others not far behind – and due to the age and condition of these units (over 20 years old), replacing them at once provides Oak Creek Academy with a long term, more cost-effective solution.

Oak Creek Academy is asking for everyone to rally their friends, family, and networks to support our school’s endeavor to purchase 25 new HVAC units. We hope to initially raise $190K dollars to go towards phase 2 of a 4-part Vision Fund. In the coming months we will also need to repave the parking lot, replace the leaking roof, and we ultimately hope to expand our facilities – all of which will require on-going support from the community. While every donation helps and is appreciated, we are asking for donors to also consider recurring donations to help support these future projects as well. Additionally, 10% of all proceeds will go towards establishing our very first scholarship program. We want as many children as possible to be able to experience everything that Oak Creek Academy has to offer.

Will you support the growth of Oak Creek Academy and its students? We are accepting donations via our campaign page, card, cash or checks, and corporate sponsorships. With warm, giving hearts we know that we can raise the funds needed to make all of our vison plans a reality.

https://oakcreekkilleen.networkforgood.com/projects/110574-warm-hearts-warm-kids

Want to be a sponsor by purchasing an HVAC unit for a classroom or by funding an annual scholarship? Contact Oak Creek Academy at (254) 526-9299 to learn more about their sponsor program and benefits.

Want to learn more about what our parents have to say about Oak Creek Academy first? Here are a few of our testimonials! And stay tuned for an exciting series to come – you will get to hear from our parents, teachers, and students!
https://oakcreekkilleen.org/testimonials/

Helping Children Cope with Transitions

Visual Timer to ease transition stress

Habit and Routine

Humans are creatures of habit and routine. Even as adults, we may struggle with the concept of change, which requires more effort and thought. However, we have developed coping skills that work to ease the stress of transitions and change. So, it is not surprising that children also struggle to make transitions between activities, places, and objects of attention. Starting and stopping a task can be a common trigger for problem behaviors in children who lack the necessary coping skills. This is especially true of children who have emotional or developmental challenges.

How Transition Difficulties Manifest

To make matters even more complicated, transitions often involve ending a preferred task to move onto something that is necessary – for example, ending time on the playground to return to classroom learning or cleaning up toys to prepare for bedtime. Difficulty with transitions can manifest in a problem behavior such as resisting, avoiding, negotiating, distracting, or even a full-blown meltdown. In this case, the adult’s reaction is extremely important – as children can learn which behaviors help them to avoid or delay the undesired transition. Allowing the child to avoid or escape transitions can increase the likelihood of maladaptive coping skills during times of change.

Transitions and Development

While transitions can be a triggering event for a lot of children, they are particularly difficult for kids with ADHD, anxiety, Autism, and sensory processing issues. For example, children with ADHD tend to hyper focus on rewarding activities, so turning their attention to a less rewarding task may be met with significantly more resistance. Children with autism may have a need for sameness and predictability, meaning sudden shifts or changes can upset their equilibrium. Likewise, for kids with sensory processing difficulties the world is overstimulating and fast, so they crave order and control to keep calm – which leads to meltdowns when transitions happen too quickly.  Anxiety, especially obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), can present as a meltdown during transitions, when the child feels a task has been interrupted before perfect completion, or when routines are disrupted.

Building the Skills

Understanding the triggers that make kids balk, or get upset, at transitions, is the first step to managing them better for both kids and adults. It is possible, with consistency (and a bit of trial and error to find the right technique) to help all kids better cope with change and transitions. Here are a few things to try:

1. Create routines:

Children who like structure and consistency will benefit from a creating a routine centered around transition times. For example, creating a routine that signals to the child bedtime is approaching – a particular activity that lets the child know what comes next. This helps their minds prepare before the big transition, decreasing the likelihood of a meltdown and allowing the child to develop an increased tolerance for future transitions.

2. Preview and Countdown:

Children with anxiety may feel more at ease if they know what to expect from their day. Previewing the day’s events ahead of time can help when it comes time to move on to the next part of their day. Additionally, providing countdowns before a transition allows the child adequate time to emotionally prepare themselves for the change. They know what to expect and when to expect it. For children who struggle with the abstract concept of time, you can use a visual timer.

3. Give it a Soundtrack:

This can work particularly well for younger kids. For example, a clean-up song or a tooth brushing song. The song can signal the end of one activity and the beginning of the next. Children naturally learn through play and engaging with their world, making songs and playfulness effective tools to use when implementing routines and easing transitions.

4. Visual Cues:

This is especially useful when implementing a routine or using a countdown method. Children who prefer visual prompts can look at a routine or checklist and see exactly what will happen next. And a visual timer lets them know how long they have left to finish their current task – while also preparing them mentally for the next activity.  

5. Capture their Attention:

Especially true for children with ADHD, making intentional contact with them before initiating the transition can help them feel connected and heard. This can help to decrease the frequency of resistance and meltdowns when faced with transitions to less rewarding tasks. You can make sure you have their attention through eye contact, a gentle hand on their shoulder, or asking that they repeat the next step back to you.

6. Consequences and Rewards:

Most importantly perhaps is ensuring that resistance, negotiating, avoiding, and meltdowns do not become a habitual problem behavior. You can opt to either ignore the behavior or use an appropriate consequence that makes the child understand that behavior is off limits. Likewise, you can use a reward chart to reinforce positive behaviors during periods of transition. The system should be something that leads to a tangible reward for the child.

7. Acknowledge the Positive:

You can offer enthusiastic praise when a child follows through with a transition in a way that is behaviorally appropriate. Be specific in your praise, “I really liked how you put away your cars when it was time to clean up.”  Follow up with a reward when appropriate. With the right support and tools all children can learn how to handle transitions and change.

Executive Function & ADHD in Children

ADHD and Exeuctive Function - Kids playing with fidget spinner
ADHD and Exeuctive Function - Kids playing with fidget spinner

What are Executive Functions?

Executive functions are a set of essential skills we use each day. They help us regulate our emotions and accomplish all kinds of tasks. Children rely on their executive function skill set for everything – from getting dressed in the morning to managing their emotions to completing assignments at school.

Executive Function Skills Include:

  • Planning a task
  • Organizing materials
  • Managing time needed to accomplish a task
  • Making decisions – yes, even small ones
  • Transitioning from one task or situation to another
  • Controlling emotional reactions or self-regulating
  • Learning from past experiences

Executive Functions and the ADHD Child

Did you know that most kids (though not all) with ADHD will have some sort of executive function deficit? This deficit makes it more difficult for them to regulate and accomplish tasks. Children who have poor executive functioning often appear more disorganized than their peers, regularly losing or forgetting important steps and materials. Maintaining a clean working environment or bedroom is overwhelming for them – especially once a mess has built up. Even simpler tasks, such as getting dressed in the morning, will take them longer due to poor time management. These children tend to struggle more in school, finding it difficult to complete tasks in a timely manner, memorize facts, solve multi-step problems, and identify important information.

What is ADHD?

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a condition that makes it unusually difficult for children to concentrate, to pay attention, to sit still, to follow directions, and to control impulsive behavior. Symptoms of ADHD are divided into two groups: inattentive behaviors and hyperactive and impulsive behaviors.

Inattentive symptoms of ADHD:

  • Gets distracted easily
  • Appears to not be listening when directly spoken to
  • Struggles with receiving and following directions
  • Difficulties with planning and organization
  • Avoids or dislikes sustained mental or physical effort
  • Seems forgetful, or regularly losing items

Hyperactive or impulsive symptoms of ADHD:

  • Has trouble staying still, constantly fidgeting or squirming
  • Runs, moves, or climbs excessively
  • Finds it difficult to play quietly
  • Appears to be “driven by a motor” (always on the go)
  • Is extremely impatient Talks excessively, blurting out, or interrupting

How Can I Help my Child Overcome?

To help children with ADHD and executive function deficits, we must teach them the tools they need to tackle daily tasks that require planning, time management, and organization. Here are a few to get them started:

Checklists

The necessary steps required to complete a task may not be clear to a child with an executive function deficit. They may not be able to decide where or how to begin the task at hand, resulting in meltdown and an inability to even start. Checklists can help to minimize the mental and emotional strain by allowing the child to focus on one step of the task at a time. Checklists can be made for virtually any task that the child struggles with – cleaning their work area, morning routine, bedtime routines, homework, etc. Check lists can help save sanity for both the parent and the child. Make sure checklists are visual and easy to comprehend – using words, pictures, or both.

Utilize a Visual Timer

Children with executive function deficits often struggle with “time blindness”. Utilizing marked clocks, timers, counters, or apps can help children see how much time has passed, how much is left, and how quickly it is passing. This helps make time a physical, measurable thing, rather than an abstract concept. This can also help with planning for transitions between activities.

Create a Routine

Picture schedules and checklists can help kids keep track of and follow a routine. A routine checklist shows them what they need to do in the mornings before school and in the evening before calling it a night. It also helps them remember the order in which to do things in – this begins to help them with the basics of planning and organizing other kinds of tasks. You can use routines/checklists in conjunction with a visual timer or even a reward system. Routine charts can help instill self-confidence and independence in the child.

Write it Down

Encourage children to write things down or ask for written instructions whenever possible. Help them compensate for forgetfulness by coming up with tools to preventing it in the first place. Just like with checklists and timers, help the child make important information visual using note cards, signs, sticky notes, lists, journals, planners, etc. We can bolster the child’s executive functioning skills and help them build working memory by finding a method that works best for them.

Stop to Refuel

Self-regulation and executive functions tend to be a finite resource. They can quickly become depleted, especially when the child has been hard at work. Give the child a chance to refuel by encouraging frequent short breaks (between 3 and 10 -minutes) during tasks that stress their executive system. Breaks between timed tasks can help encourage follow through on longer more overwhelming tasks, such as cleaning a bedroom or completing a larger assignment.

Make it a Game

Remember that play is a child’s primary mode of learning. Games that require memory, strategy, and organization allow children to practice executive function skills. When choosing a game, be sure to choose one with rules that are simple and age appropriate. The game should be fun and enjoyable while still challenging. Initially the child my need a lot of guidance from an adult, but over time gradually decrease the role the adult plays in the child’s decision making – encouraging them to remember the rules and plan their next move independently. These types of games can be board or card games, physical games such as Simon says, movement games to songs/music, or even puzzles, matching games, and word finds. As they get older the games can become more complex requiring more focus and planning.

Show Compassion

The most important thing we can do as parents is show compassion and a willingness to help our children learn. They are going to make mistakes, but we can equip ourselves with the knowledge necessary to identify skill deficits. We can teach them how to overcome executive function challenges and prevent lapses in planning, organization, and time management in the future.

Resources: Children’s Books on Inclusion, Acceptance, and Uniqueness

Books are magical in that they can help our children understand themselves and their peers better. Books allow them to see things from different points of view and are one of the most powerful ways children can begin to make sense of the world around them. Here we have compiled a list of books for children all about inclusion, acceptance, and uniqueness. They are also books that touch on themes of friendship, feelings, and overcoming worries. If you have a book suggestion for children, teens, or even favorite parent books leave a comment and let us know! Check back frequently as we add new books to our list.

The Masterpiece (One Big Canvas) by Jay Miletsky (Author), Luis Peres (Illustrator)

1. The Masterpiece (One Big Canvas) by Jay Miletsky (Author), Luis Peres (Illustrator)

When some of the brushes don’t cooperate, is it because they are misbehaving…or is there another reason entirely? In this story, young readers are introduced to some of the behavioral differences in their autistic peers. Without ever mentioning any particular challenge or disability by name, this story helps children recognize and understand what autism is, and impress upon them the importance of showing kindness to those who are different, wrapped into a fun story with lighthearted, engaging characters.

All My Stripes: A Story for Children With Autism by Shaina Rudolph (Author), Danielle Royer (Author), Jennifer Zivoin (Illustrator)

2. All My Stripes: A Story for Children With Autism by Shaina Rudolph (Author), Danielle Royer (Author), Jennifer Zivoin (Illustrator)

Zane the zebra feels different from the rest of his classmates. He worries that all they notice about him is his “autism stripe.” With the help of his Mama, Zane comes to appreciate all his stripes — the unique strengths that make him who he is! Includes a Reading Guide with additional background information about autism spectrum disorders and a Note to Parents and Caregivers with tips for finding support.

The Boy with Big, Big Feelings by Britney Winn Lee

3. The Boy with Big, Big Feelings by Britney Winn Lee

Meet a boy with feelings so big that they glow from his cheeks, spill out of his eyes, and jump up and down on his chest. When a loud truck drives by, he cries. When he hears a joke, he bursts with joy. When his loved ones are having a hard day, he feels their emotions as if they were his own. The boy tries to cope by stuffing down his feelings, but with a little help and artistic inspiration, the boy realizes his feelings are something to be celebrated. The Boy with Big, Big Feelings is relatable for any child, but especially for children experiencing anxiety and extreme emotions, or who have been diagnosed with autism or as a Highly Sensitive Person.

Since We're Friends: An Autism Picture Book by Celeste Shally

4. Since We’re Friends: An Autism Picture Book by Celeste Shally

Matt’s autism doesn’t keep him from having fun! Even when he struggles in social situations, his friend is there to help him out. The two boys love playing sports watching movies, reading books, and talking about animals. By working together, a best friend’s understanding and compassion change Matt’s frustration into excitement

The Boy Who Didn't Want to Be Sad Hardcover by Dr. Robert Goldblatt PsyD (Author, Illustrator)

5. The Boy Who Didn’t Want to Be Sad Hardcover by Dr. Robert Goldblatt PsyD (Author, Illustrator)

There once was a boy who didn’t want to be sad. So he made a decision. He made a plan. The plan was to get rid of everything that made him sad. but what he found out when he tried to get rid of sadness was a very, very big lesson in happiness. This book helps children face and even celebrate their emotions, even the uncomfortable ones, as parts of the whole experience of being alive.

Just Breathe Paperback by Annette Rivlin-Gutman (Author), Melissa Bailey (Illustrator)

6. Just Breathe Paperback by Annette Rivlin-Gutman (Author), Melissa Bailey (Illustrator)

Just Breathe is for any child who feels anxious or worried when facing everyday life circumstances such as going to a new school, taking a test, arguing with a friend, or trying out for a team. In this charming story, the child remembers to breathe deeply in order to find his own inner calm and successfully cope with each new situation.

Wonder Hardcover by R. J. Palacio (for older kids)

7. Wonder Hardcover by R. J. Palacio (for older kids)

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

Noah Chases the Wind Hardcover – by Michelle Worthington (Author), Joseph Cowman (Illustrator)

8. Noah Chases the Wind Hardcover – by Michelle Worthington (Author), Joseph Cowman (Illustrator)

Noah is different. He sees, hears, feels, and thinks in ways that other people don’t always understand, and he asks a lot of questions along the way. Noah loves science, especially the weather. His books usually provide him with the answers he needs, until one day, there’s one question they don’t answer—and that is where Noah’s windy adventure begins.

What Do You Do With a Problem? by Kobi Yamada

9. What Do You Do With a Problem? by Kobi Yamada

This is the story of a persistent problem and the child who isn’t so sure what to make of it. The longer the problem is avoided, the bigger it seems to get. But when the child finally musters up the courage to face it, the problem turns out to be something quite different than it appeared. What Do You Do With a Problem? is a story for anyone, at any age, who has ever had a problem that they wished would go away. It’s a story to inspire you to look closely at that problem and to find out why it’s here. Because you might discover something amazing about your problem… and yourself.

The Worry Box Hardcover by Suzanne Chiew (Author), Sean Julian (Illustrator)

10. The Worry Box Hardcover by Suzanne Chiew (Author), Sean Julian (Illustrator)

Murray Bear is supposed to go to the waterfall with his sister, Molly, to meet a friend, but Murray is worried. “What if it’s too LOUD?” he cries “Or what if I get swept away!” So Molly tells him about her special worry box. “When I’m worried about something,” she says, “I write it down, then put it inside.” She offers to help make one for Murray, and he takes it on their journey-but will it really help?

Strictly No Elephants Hardcover by Lisa Mantchev (Author), Taeeun Yoo (Illustrator) A book about acceptance

11. Strictly No Elephants Hardcover by Lisa Mantchev (Author), Taeeun Yoo (Illustrator)

Today is Pet Club day. There will be cats and dogs and fish, but strictly no elephants are allowed. The Pet Club doesn’t understand that pets come in all shapes and sizes, just like friends. Now it is time for a boy and his tiny pet elephant to show them what it means to be a true friend.

Standing Up to OCD Workbook For Kids by Tyson Reuter PhD (Author) (for older kids)

12. Standing Up to OCD Workbook For Kids by Tyson Reuter PhD (Author) (for older kids)

The Standing Up to OCD Workbook for Kids has 40 fun activities to help you manage bad thoughts, say goodbye to worried feelings, and quit actions that are hard to stop―so you can get back to doing your favorite things. Color, write, draw, and use your thinking skills to show your OCD who’s really in charge (and that’s you!). When it comes to controlling those difficult feelings and thoughts, practice makes perfect. You can do this!

Tully and Me: A Book about differences, understanding, and friendship Paperback by Keeley A Shaw (Author)

13. Tully and Me: A story about differences, understanding, and friendship Paperback by Keeley A Shaw (Author)

Tully and Me explores a friendship built on differences and understanding. Tully represents an individual affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder. The unique characteristics associated with Autism are portrayed including an affinity for counting and order, and a love for visual stimulation. Whimsical watercolor illustrations help to showcase a unique friendship that is nurtured through adversity and understanding. Tully and Me explores a world where our differences and the universal language of a smile bring us together.

A Friend for Henry: (Books About Making Friends, Children's Friendship Books, Autism Awareness Books for Kids) by Jenn Bailey  (Author), Mika Song  (Illustrator)

14. A Friend for Henry: (Books About Making Friends, Children’s Friendship Books, Autism Awareness Books for Kids) by Jenn Bailey  (Author), Mika Song  (Illustrator)

In Classroom Six, second left down the hall, Henry has been on the lookout for a friend. A friend who shares. A friend who listens. Maybe even a friend who likes things to stay the same and all in order, as Henry does. But on a day full of too close and too loud, when nothing seems to go right, will Henry ever find a friend—or will a friend find him? With insight and warmth, this heartfelt story from the perspective of a boy on the autism spectrum celebrates the everyday magic of friendship.

Do Non-Profit, Private Schools Need Donations?

Why Would a Private School Need Fundraisers?

It is no secret that attending an independent school usually comes with paying tuition. One might even think that with these streams of money coming in, private schools would be set for the school year (and beyond!). So, if you are here you may be wondering, “Why would a school that receives tuition per child require community donations or support?” That is a great question and one we would be happy to answer!

The Gap and Overhead Costs

Did you know that at most private schools, Oak Creek Academy included, tuition does not actually cover the full cost of educating a student? This discrepancy between funds received through tuition and the full financial demands of a private school is often called “the gap” – this difference can sometimes be quite large. In fact, for some private schools the gap is large enough that they would be unable to remain open without the contributions from sponsors and donors. Furthermore, most private schools are classified as non-profit organizations, meaning they get ZERO government funding or support. Oak Creek Academy tuition costs fall below the state average for private schools – and there is not another school like OCA in central Texas. 

You may still be wondering, “Okay, but where does the money actually go?” The hard reality is that the overhead of running a school is quite significant. From faculty and staff salaries, to facility maintenance and operations, utilities, upgrading or replacing out of date or broken heating and cooling systems, daily supplies such as toiletries and cleaning products, sanitation and cleaning of the school, field trips, school events, training and staff development, providing and upgrading technologies, etc. all means the cash flow is larger than one would ever imagine. So where are they going to get the funds to cover the gap between tuition and actual cost of running their school? This answer is, in short, donations. Community donations can even help keep tuition costs lower and more affordable for families.

How can I Help a Private School Fundraise?

Now, you may be asking, “Okay, so what can I do to help?” There are many ways that you can help a non-profit private school raise funds. This could be setting up one-time or requiring cash donations – or sharing their donation page with your friends, family, and community. Did you know some companies will even match the donation amount of their employee? Non-profit schools can also take gifts in kind, or service/supply donations – just be sure to ask what they need first. You can even become a sponsor by donating specifically to cover the cost of a student’s tuition or the cost of a specific project.

Support Oak Creek Academy

You can help support Oak Creek Academy by donating through our Network for Good giving campaign, or by sharing our page on social media. We believe that all students deserve the chance to learn in an environment that fosters their social-emotional, language, cognitive, and physical development. All donations go toward furthing the mission and vision of Oak Creek Academy. Your support means the world to a child who needs an encouraging environment to learn, grow, and succeed.   

Basic Guide to W-Sitting

What is W-sitting?

W-sitting is a sitting position in which children sit with their knees bent/rotated inward and their feet tucked under them, while their bottom is resting on the floor between their legs – creating the w-shape that gives this position its name. Parents and therapists usually notice children W-sitting between ages 3 to 6, but you may also observe it with younger or older children.

Why do Children gravitate towards W-Sitting?

W-sitting is a more stable position for children because they rely on their joints to keep them upright instead of their muscles. It also leaves their hands free to play without challenging their balance. Children with low muscle tone, hypermobility in the joints or decreased balance and truck control are also more likely to W-Sit. While this is a normal position for a child to briefly move in and out of during the day, it should not be maintained for prolonged periods of play.

What are the Negative Effects of W-Sitting?

Pediatric therapists routinely work to correct this sitting posture to prevent additional impairments. Let’s explore some of the reasons W-sitting is not recommended for children:

Overuse of this position can delay development of postural control and stability. This effects coordination balance and the development of motor skills.

Children who W-Sit do not have to work as hard to engage their core and hold their trunks upright – instead, they rely on their joint structures (and not their muscles) to hold them up. This causes increased posterior pelvic tilt which can result in poor sitting posture, decreased core activation, reduced trunk rotation, and delayed fine motor development.

In some studies, W-Sitting points to an increased risk of developing joint abnormalities such as a pigeon-toed gait pattern. This walking pattern is correlated with excessive tripping, clumsiness, instability when walking and running, and decreased balance and body awareness.

What are some Alternatives to W-Sitting?

You can provide consistent and positive verbal reinforcement to the child such as, “legs out” or “sit on your bottom, please”. The verbal prompts used will take the place of physically adjusting the child’s position. You can also use physical cueing such as a gentle tap on the leg. Here are some alternative positions for your child:

Cross-legged, or “criss-cross applesauce”: This is a common position in which children sit with feet crossed and knees apart.

Side-sit: in this position, both knees are bent, weight is shifted to one hip, and both feet are out to the same side. This removes stress from the hip joint structures, allowing for easy transitions in and out of sitting. Encourage sitting on both the right and left sides to promote equal development.

Long-sit: In this position the child’s bottom is firmly on the floor with their feet are straight out in front of them. You can also provide back support by having the child lean against a wall or pillow.

Short kneel: Children sit in a folded kneeling position – their feet tucked together under their bottom. kneeling can be a great way to strengthen hip and core muscles, just be sure that they do not shift back into the W-position.

Half kneel: Children position themselves with one foot tucked under their bottom and the other foot flat on the ground.

Praise your child when they reposition themselves. W-Sitting can quickly become a habit; early identification and encouragement is the best method to prevent any adverse outcomes from sitting in this position.

When Should You Worry About W- Sitting?

While W-Sitting is a natural position for children to move in and out of during play, they should not depend on it for support and balance. If your child frequently utilizes the W-Sitting position and you notice any of the following, discuss them with your child’s pediatrician to determine if an evaluation is necessary.

Ask for a referral for a physical therapist for further assessment if your child:

develops a limp,

expresses discomfort or has signs of hip pain

exhibits weakness in their lower extremities,

uses a pigeon-toed gait when walking

Ask for a referral for occupational therapy for further assessment if your child:

appears to have low muscle tone or weak core strength: signs of poor muscle tone include frequent falling or clumsiness, and overall poor posture

is unable to sit alone in any position other than a “W”

seems clumsy or uncoordinated

has trouble with fine motor delays (cutting paper with scissors, tying shoelaces, etc.)

The 3R’s – Regulate, Relate, Reason

“Take the time to drop down to meet your child at eye level when speaking or listening. “

Overview:

Emotional regulation is the ability to monitor one’s emotions and behavior, control impulses and behave within a socially accepted manner in response to external or internal stimulus. It is a complex process that children, especially those with emotional or developmental differences, often struggle with. When a child becomes emotionally dysregulated due to a triggering event, it becomes difficult (nearly impossible) to relate or reason with them. Let’s explore what we can do in our child’s moments of emotional dysregulation by following Dr. Perry’s 3 R’s – Regulate, Relate, Reason.

Step 1: Regulate

It is important to understand why regulation must be the first step towards calming a triggered and upset child. The brain organizes from bottom to top, with the lower parts of the brain (survival brain) developing earliest and the cortical areas (thinking brain) much later.

Before a child is capable of emotional relation or cognitive reason, the lowest parts of the brain must first be regulated. During this stage focus on soothing the child. Make them feel calm, loved, and safe. Here are some ways to help a child regulate:

1. Keep emotionally calm to avoid reinforcing challenging behaviors

2. Practice deep breathing or counting to 10

3. Utilize sensory tools such as stress balls, headphones, or weighted blankets

4. Provide a safe space for the child away from noise and commotion

Step 2: Relate

Once the child has begun to calm down you can try relating to the child. Speak in calm, short sentences, as lengthy monologues can quickly become overwhelming and re-trigger their stress response. You can validate their feelings with your words and tone of voice. “I know you’re upset right now.” “You really wanted to stay longer.” “This is very hard.” Right now, the focus is on just connecting with the child and giving words to their big feelings. Taking the time to drops down to meet the child on eye level can also help the child feel heard and seen.

Step 3: Reason

Once a child feels safe and connected, they can fully engage in learning and reflection. A calm child is more likely to have the mental capacity to reason with you, take directions, and respond appropriately – they can use the higher thinking portion of their brains. Now would be the time to talk about alternatives to behaviors while reinforcing limits you set before.

“Relationships are the agents of change and the most powerful therapy is human love.” – Bruce D. Perry

Bruce D. Perry, The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook

Simple Toys, Complex Learning – Benefits of Open-Ended Play

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Benefits of Open-Ended Toys, Photo: Children playing with blocks together

Selecting Toys for your Child:

When selecting toys for children, it is important to consider open-ended toys that foster creative play and help benefit the child’s development. The simplicity or complexity of a toy is directly correlated with the quality of play – which is what truly matters. Surprisingly, simple toys offer more opportunities for play and learning than more complex toys.

So, what is a simple toy? Consider this: The more a toy does the less your child does. So, simple toys will be multifunctional ones that encourage active learning and require your child to manipulate them before they work. They will spark imagination and curiosity while teaching problem solving. This includes (but is not limited to) blocks, dollhouses, puzzles, clay, stacking toys, art supplies, and musical instruments. The function these toys perform will be entirely dependent upon your child’s mood and creative interpretation.

Meanwhile, a complex toy that is activated with the push of a button has a more straightforward purpose and directed play. They are limited in functionality, usually only performing a handful of actions or sound effects. These are your battery powered, instant gratification kinds of toys – including screens. These toys are of course fun for a period, but do little to encourage creative exploration, imaginative play, or problem-solving. The more ways that a child can play with a single toy, the more they will learn.

Benefits of Simple Toys:

Simply put, open-ended toys result in open-ended play.

Open-ended toys encourage children to create and problem-solve, helping them to better understand the world around them. Simple toys make room for your child’s constantly evolving perspective of the world, encouraging more creative and complex play as they learn and grow. These toys will have developmental benefits for years to come.

Increased Peer Interactions

Better yet, when open-ended toys are utilized in a group setting with peers, they encourage social development and social interaction. Children must interact with one another to determine how they wish to use a multiuse toy. Furthermore, children use pretend play to explore various emotions, and they learn how to respond to the emotions of their peers. This encourages the development of emotional intelligence.

Grows Developmentally with the Child

How a child interacts with an open-ended toy at age 2 can differ from the investigative interactions with the same toy at age 4. For example, a 2-year old child may engage in stacking play with wooden blocks – this creative open-ended play can teach her about shapes while working to develop her fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and dexterity. Meanwhile, a 4-year old who engages in building, knocking down, and rebuilding various block towers is learning about math, physics, persistence, and problem-solving.

Cost-Effective (or even better, free!)

Some of the best open-ended toys are going to be recycled items from your home. These can include cardboard boxes, toilet paper or paper towel tubes, fabric scraps, Tupperware, or other household items. Build a castle out of boxes, make binoculars out of paper tubes – you can get creative with your child and help them to explore their world in new ways.

Having trouble getting your child interested in open-ended play?

Here are some simple tips to get them started: Be present – Sit with them and show them some ways to use the toys provided. Encourage your child to model stacking the blocks. Limit access to complex toys – Screen time and video games offer instant entertainment value but do not help develop your child’s critical thinking skills. The more opportunities your child has for engaging in open-ended play the better. Offer “loose-ends” to the open-ended toy bins – Items such as stones, shells, wooden figures, ribbons, etc. can all be incorporated into your child’s creative world (be sure to consider age appropriate sizes of loose-ends).

Tips for Transitioning from Home back to School

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Returning to child care after weeks of staying at home will be another transition for young children.

Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Show excitement as you talk about coming back. Remind them of the things they love about school – the playground, circle time, blocks, art center, etc.
  • Take a drive by the school, maybe even get out and walk around to let the children know it will be safe for them to go back.
  • Start a return to a ’school’ schedule about a week before; mirror the schedule we have a school – learning, meals, naps, playtime, physical activity.
  • Turn off the screens!
  • Let child help prepare all they need to return like getting backpacks ready, shopping for lunch items online, get nap blanket ready to go…
  • For older children, 5 and up, it might be useful to begin getting them used to making their own lunches. Find a way to simplify where the items needed for lunch are placed at a low level, take time to explain where everything is located and make sure to consistently replace items and place them back in their place. Children are capable of helping and feeling in control of a little of their lives by participating in the everyday tasks of the day.
  • Explain what PPE is and demonstrate using a face mask and gloves at home to prepare them.
  • Practice independent hand washing.
  • Tell children what is really going on and not a false story about why the child care center had to close.
  • Remind children that teachers and staff won’t be able to hug them and some favorite activities aren’t offered or allowed at this time.
  • Tell children what is really going on and not a false story about why the child care center had to close, using simple language that they can understand.
  • Explain how drop off and pick up will be different for a little while. “Your teacher will meet you at the front door of the school. She will take your temperature real quick before you go to your classroom.”
  • Get a good night’s rest the night before!