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Academic Success Depends on Many Factors … Reading Ability


Photo by Eugene Kim via flickr.com (click for link)

Children are typically introduced to early reading skills in kindergarten.  By the end of this school year, children are expected to know a minimum number of sight words and have mastered letter recognition and phonics sounds.  If your child has not achieved these basic skills by the middle of first grade, then they often have a very difficult time learning to read.  Moreover, the students who are still learning basic sight words and decoding skills (sounding out words) by third grade may actually have a learning disability or processing disorder.  In fact, most teachers will say that between kindergarten and third grade students are learning to read.  From fourth grade through high school they are reading to learn.  If your child’s reading skills are below grade level by fourth grade, it will significantly interfere with their ability to learn in all subjects including math.  School can become a very frustrating and discouraging experience.

Signs to look for:  If you notice your kindergarten student can’t seem to learn and remember the letters of the alphabet.  If your first grader is not consistently sounding out word, but tends to guess when reading.  Or your second grader is still reversing some letters (b/d or p/g), or forgets sight words and has to sound them out in every sentence, then these behaviors are strong indicators of a learning disability or processing disorder.

Then what should you do?  First ask your child’s teacher if she/he is concerned and how your child is progressing in reading when compared to the other students in the class.  If the teacher is concerned, then request that your child is provided with reading intervention at school.  Nearly all public schools provide this service.  Or make a written request to the school district to have your child evaluated for a specific learning disability.  The school district may inform you that your child is “meeting benchmarks” and deny your request for an evaluation.

If this occurs, then you should contact a clinical psychologist who is trained and experienced in psychological/psycho-educational testing and have your child evaluated.  Children whose learning and processing weaknesses are identified in early elementary school can significantly improve their reading skills in a fairly short period of time with the appropriate intervention.  If they are not evaluated until fifth or sixth grade, then the likelihood that they will ever catch up to grade level in reading is much lower.  Therefore, the younger a child is evaluated and given services the more likely they will be strong readers before entering middle school.

End of school can mean new beginnings

Everyone has a different feeling at the end of the school year, and it can change as our roles in life change.  I have always looked forward to the beginning of summer, even though I truly loved school as a student, and enjoyed helping my sons succeed in school, perhaps a little less with the things they disliked.  For one it was timed tests for math facts, for the other writing “more detail” for his school papers.  Overall, though, while I liked school, I love summer!

The beginning of summer gives me a burst of energy.  I remember loving the end of so much structure, as a student and a mom, and the sunny weather, once we got past our California “May Gray” and “June Gloom”.  That meant it was time for the beach, and there is nowhere I love more than the beach.  It gives me energy, perspective, serenity, and joy.  As I’m writing this, I’ve just returned from another wonderful beach outing.

So I’m excited to share that soon you should be hearing about some new possibilities here at Families Counseling.  We are talking about some new programs for teens, possibly regarding social skills, possibly for kids with fairly severe problems.  We’re also talking about some parenting groups, and maybe a couples group as well.  Can you feel the burst of energy?

I don’t know if they will all come to pass, but you will definitely hear the news on our blog pages and our Facebook page.  So please both subscribe to our mailing list, and “like” us on Facebook.  If you have friends who might be interested who don’t know about us yet, please pass this along to them as well.

Happy summer, and I hope you feel a burst of energy as well!

If your student is having a hard time fitting into the school system, and feels like a “fish out of water”, take 6 minutes to listen to this great spoken word poem.  One of my clients played it for me the other day, and it really made an impression.  I often work with teens who are having trouble succeeding in school, and I thought I understood how they feel, but this took it to a whole other level.  See what you think!

Here are the lyrics Continue Reading…

Breathing exercises to help with stress

Today I will breathe deep and be grateful. ~AnnVoskamp.Com1.  Deep “Belly Breathing”.  Try taking 6 to 10 deep breaths.  Put your hand on your belly and imagine filling your belly with breath, rather than your lungs.  This helps you breathe deeply from your diaphragm.  Be sure to fully exhale each time.  You can even exhale with a “whoosh”, forcing the breath out.  It’s very cleansing, and will help your body “reset”.

2. 4-6-8 Breathing.  Take a few minutes and allow yourself to count while you breathe in for 4 counts, hold it for 6 counts, and exhale for 8 counts.  Don’t strain, and keep it comfortable.  The main idea is to allow yourself to count, hold your breath for a moment, and exhale.  Doing this 6 to 10 times in a row, several times a day, is a great stress reliever.

3.  Counting your breaths.  Try breathing deeply, exhaling fully, and on each exhale count, first “one”, then “two”, etc.  If you can, it’s great to close your eyes, and visualize the number.  Go up to 10, and then start over, as many times as you like.  This is a a great way to clear your mind.  Don’t worry if it’s hard to visualize the number.  Even the attempt helps worrisome thoughts to drop away.

4.  Relax your tongue.  While doing any of these exercises, practice relaxing your tongue.  I know, it sounds crazy, but it really makes a difference!  When you relax your tongue, the tip of the tongue will naturally end up resting gently just behind your front teeth, rather than on the roof of your mouth.  For reasons I don’t understand, this really helps the rest of the body to relax.

Teach your toddler how to settle into sleep

Toddler sleeping

Parents of babies and toddlers are sometimes the most sleep-deprived people you’ll ever meet.  It’s not an easy time of life for sure, and anything that can help is a big plus.  I found an article with some great tips, so hopefully these will help.