Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Simple Summer Play

It's a lovely day in New York and your desk-sitting blogger is thinking thoughts of picnics, parks, and all sorts of outdoor activities.

Being outdoors, moving about, and engaging in play is even more important for kids, so a list of 30 Classic Outdoor Games for Kids, appearing a few years ago on the website Wired.com, makes for an appealing read, especially since these games require little or no equipment (well, Marco Polo does require a swimming pool). This list will read like a journey through most adults' childhoods, whether you played on a city street, a suburban lawn or driveway, or a country field. It's a worthwhile read.

We've got some additional suggestions, tested on kids we know well. Not all are fully outdoor activities, but all can keep kids busy, active, and having fun for hours.


  • Give your kids a box -- the bigger the better. Appliance boxes make clubhouses, cars, rocket ships and more -- sometimes all on the same day. Parents can create windows or doors. A box of markers can add details. Smaller boxes can be sealed up and stacked, making walls, forts, or roadways. The only limitation for this activity is their imagination and it works for kids of all ages, even babies. 



  • Set up a tire swing. Admittedly, this isn't for everyone, since an old tire and a very sturdy tree branch aren't easy to find. But if you are blessed with both and can come by a sturdy rope and a handy adult to set it up, this can add a new dimension to an outdoor area. Adult supervision is recommended. 
  • Get a box of sidewalk chalk. This colorful, sturdy chalk can bring out the artist in many children and will wash away the next time it rains or with a hose. 
  • Have a water fight. This can involve water balloons, water guns, and even spray hoses for older kids. The rules should require kids to opt in, since not every child likes getting wet this way. And participants should be roughly the same age, so things don't overwhelm younger kids. 
  • Put on a talent show. This is a multi-day activity that can include children of all ages, with the older ones doing the planning and the younger ones participating in a age appropriate ways. Older kids love to be the boss and little ones love to be included. We're not talking about a Broadway production here, but something kids can enjoy and parents can applaud. 
  • Fingerpaint. Outdoors. Easy clean up. Nothing else to say. 
Whatever games or activities you or your children invent, the important things are to be active, to be outdoors where possible, and to have fun. After all, it's summer...









Friday, July 13, 2018

Speak to Dr. Yellin

Families sometimes have questions about The Yellin Center and the work we do. They may wonder if their child could benefit from an educational evaluation. Or they would like more information about how our interdisciplinary team can help them understand how their child thinks and learns and how their individual intellectual strengths and challenges affect them. Or they may want to know if we offer a particular service, such as review of outside assessments, support for older students -- in college, graduate, or professional school, or advocacy support and school guidance for the students we assess (YES to all of these).

To help with these and similar questions, Dr. Yellin hosts phone-in office hours each Thursday from 8 to 9 a.m. EST* (subject to change).  Anyone may call, without appointment, to briefly discuss any questions pertaining to our work or to their child's learning. There is no fee. This service is for families who are not patients of The Yellin Center; current Yellin Center students and families can reach out to our staff, who can make an appointment if needed.




Calls are taken in the order they are received. Due to the limited nature of Dr. Yellin's time, we regret that we may not be able to accommodate all callers each week but, if this occurs, we will arrange a call-back at a later time. 

To reach Dr. Yellin during this weekly phone-in hour, please call the Yellin Center at 646-775-6646.

Monday, July 9, 2018

No School for the Fall? No Need to Panic

Most students know where they will be in school this fall. They may be continuing in the same school they have attended, only one grade higher. Or they may be moving to another school, either from an elementary to a middle school, or from middle to high school. Many have even visited their new classrooms and met their new teachers during a "moving up" day at the end of the school year. Even students whose families have relocated to another school district -- nearby or across the country -- generally know where they will be starting school in August or September.

 
But not all students have a place for the coming year. Public schools in some areas, including New York City, may have a shortage of places in desirable schools and place some students on waiting lists, so that while a student will have a place somewhere, he or she may not know exactly where at this point in the summer. 

Other students are new to the city, and have not yet been enrolled. For these students, the NYC Department of Education has information available on their New Student Page., which includes information on what documentation is needed for enrollment. They also offer in-person assistance at Family Welcome Centers, which are located in every borough.

For private school students, the situation is a bit different. While public schools must provide a place for every student (although sometimes, due to  over-enrollment in some schools, this doesn't happen by the first day of school), private schools of all kinds have no such requirement. They can generally determine their admissions criteria and often set up their classes months in advance. Many families apply to these schools almost a full year before their student would actually start classes. And that situation can be even more so for private schools for students with special learning needs. 

However, even for students with special learning needs facing limited spots in schools that can offer them the support they require, all is not lost. First, keep in mind that a school that might be full in June can have openings by August, as families move or change their plans. Stay in touch with the admissions office of the school(s) you are interested in and let them know you would enroll if a spot opens up. Also, despite what parents may hear (and schools don't want to advertise this fact), but especially in times of economic uncertainty or downturn, not all of these schools fill their spots. Private school is very expensive, and whether families pay completely on their own, or are seeking reimbursement for special education tuition, some parents find these schools beyond their means.  It never hurts to inquire about last minute openings. There is also the possibility of mid-year openings, as schools or families realize that the "fit" between a particular school and student is not a good one. Again, stay in touch with admissions officers to learn of these places. 

Parents of students who require special education and were contemplating private school should keep in mind that the public system not only is required to accept their child, but to provide him or her with a free, appropriate education (FAPE) under an IEP. There are many reasons why this solution may not be acceptable for some parents, including class size and the rigor of special education supports (although some public schools do provide strong special education programs) but it can offer an alternative while parents seek a private setting they may prefer. 



Photo by Pete Bellis on Unsplash


Friday, June 29, 2018

The Supreme Court

Your blogger has never argued a case before the Supreme Court, although I was admitted as a member of the Supreme Court bar many years ago with other students from my law school alma mater. A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Court again, this time as our eldest son was admitted to the Court with members of his law school class. We had the chance to meet in a small group with Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. We got to attend a reception in the Court building and to sit in the courtroom and listen to the Court issue its decisions in a number of cases before our son and his colleagues were sworn in as members of the Supreme Court bar. It was a very memorable experience.


If you have been on a remote island without access to the internet, you might not be aware that the U.S. Supreme Court is very much in the news today. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who will turn 82 in July, has tendered his resignation. Since his appointment by President Reagan in 1987 (he actually took his seat on the Court in early 1988), Justice Kennedy has often served as the "swing vote" on many important cases. His replacement will be appointed by the President and must be confirmed by the Senate. It can be expected that Justice Kennedy's replacement will be more conservative than he has been. Since Supreme Court justices have lifetime tenure (unless they resign, as happened here), Justice Kennedy's replacement can be expected to have an impact on our laws for many years to come. 

Whatever your views of the Supreme Court or its future, you might want to take advantage of some excellent materials geared for kids to discuss these current events with your school-aged children.

A real-life story of a current Supreme Court Justice, geared for four through eight year olds (although this adult enjoyed it greatly), is I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy. With lively illustrations to help children access the story, this explanation of how Justice Ginsburg broke down gender barriers throughout her life is a satisfying read. [Adults who enjoy I Dissent might want to read Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.]

A whimsical tale for elementary students, with guides for parents and teachers included, is 

Finally, Channel Thirteen, a PBS station, has a list of resources about the Supreme Court for children and for young adults and teens. Unfortunately, the links in this list are no longer live, but a search engine can help locate these helpful books.








Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Record Keeping

Most families have a file, or a box, or a drawer into which they place important documents relating to their children. These can be birth certificates, report cards, even artwork or notes written by their kids. But, as parents of older or adult children can attest, after a while these artifacts add up and there can be the temptation on the part of some parents to toss them all out. Other parents keep everything - for sentimental reasons or out of concern that something will be needed one day. The larger the storage area of one's home and the longer between moves, the more boxes can accumulate. And families of students with disabilities -- medical issues, learning difficulties, or both -- have vastly increased number of medical and educational documents.



There has got to be a better balance. Just what should be kept long-term and what can/should be tossed out after a while?

There is an extensive and detailed list of items to be retained -- and created -- by parents of students receiving special education services, prepared by attorney Robert K. Crabtree, an attorney, on the Wrightslaw website "From Emotions to Advocacy." However, this list is an old one and while still quite helpful, doesn't take into consideration ways to digitize many of these records. Many of the documents you will need to keep, especially IEPs and  educational assessments, can run in the dozens of pages. Scanning and storing these and other records makes a lot of sense. Remember to create back up copies of all of these documents, and to index them in a way that will help you find them, probably by subject: "IEPs", "Test Scores", "Correspondence". Within that index you can list items by date, or author, or both.

Note that some documents are important long after they are created. We know of a number of young adults who needed to document their medical history or inoculations for school or work years after they left their pediatrician's practice.  Having a record of whether one has had chicken pox or when they last had a tetanus shot can be important long after the fact. Keep in mind that your child's physicians and school both will keep records, and physicians have legal obligations to retain records for at least several years after a child reaches adulthood. Still, while you may be able to get a record from the pediatrician or school, it is always easier if you have it at your fingertips.

Most documents, once digitized and carefully backed up, can be shredded. This will leave a few items still in paper format, but the reduced number of paper documents and the careful digital storage and indexing of most files means that when something is needed that it can be retrieved quickly and easily. It can be overwhelming to tackle your child's paper records, but the result can make things easier for years to come.


Photo credit: www.wdstorage.co.uk/via flickr.com



Monday, June 18, 2018

Kids Can be Lifesavers Too

Summer is a time for being outdoors -- at the beach, pool, park, and elsewhere. But all of these wonderful activities also can result in traumatic situations, including drowning or sudden cardiac arrest. While vigilance is the best way to avoid accidents in the water, we all know that these situations can arise without warning and in a brief moment.


We also know that cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of an automatic external defibrillator can reduce the rate of permanent injury or death when there is a water accident or medical crisis. In fact, early and effective "bystander" CPR has been shown to have a positive impact on the rate of survival and longer term recovery from cardiac arrest. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly urges the  the training of children, parents, caregivers, school personnel, and the public in the provision of basic life support, including pediatric basic life support, as well as the appropriate use of automated external defibrillators (AED).

What is less discussed is the role that even young children can play in helping in these life-threatening emergencies, whether the victim is a child or adult, and the kind of training that is appropriate at each age level. As of the fall of 2017, the American College of Cardiology found that 39 states required CPR training of high school students, although the specifics of such training varied from state-to-state and not all state laws required AED training. Most training was done in school during a required health class. But children who are old enough to use a phone be trained to call 911 and to seek out an adult to help. Children in the older elementary grades or middle school can be taught the rudiments of CPR - chest compressions to an appropriate tune to set the pace ("Stayin' Alive" is often recommended).


Parents can find out what kind of training their child's school offers. If it doesn't take place until the later grades, or isn't sufficient to truly train a child to react in an emergency, classes at the local Red Cross or through another organization may be the way to go. Empowering children to help in an emergency can be a life-changing experience for all involved.





Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Pediatrician Screening for Social Media Use Urged

In the latest issue of the journal Pediatrics, a team from the Baylor School of Medicine has proposed expanding the guidelines for adolescent health screenings to include questions about social media use.

The proposal is based on data that finds teen social use resembles the patterns of substance addiction, with usage increasing over time from an average of 16 minutes a day between ages 10 and 12 to an average of 71 minutes a day during adolescence. Teenage girls report the highest usage, some 142 minutes per day on average. Anxiety during periods of withdrawal increase with age and usage, with 80 percent of college students indicating that they feel anxious when they are not able to access their devices, the authors report.


Furthermore, the proposal notes that research has shown clear relationships between mental health and social media usage. Excessive use of social media may contribute to feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety in vulnerable teens. In addition, teens with mental illness may use social media to express their thoughts and feelings.

Because of this, the authors believe that pediatricians need to expand the current standard for psychosocial screening: HEADSSS, which stands for questions about:

  • Home life
  • Education
  • Activities
  • Drugs
  • Sexual Activity
  • Safety
  • Suicide and/or depression.
This kind of screening is generally done without a parent in the room, so the teen will be more likely to be open with the physician. An additional "S" for social media usage should be added, the authors urge, and they suggest that pediatricians should ask all patients older than age 11 the following questions:
  • Which social media sites/apps to you use regularly?
  • How long to you spend on social media sites/apps on a typical day? 
    • suggestions are given for how a teen might track this usage
  • Do you think you use social media too much?
    • If the answer is yes, ask if they have tried to fix this
  • Does viewing social media increase or decrease your self confidence?
  • Have you personally experienced cyberbullying, sexting, or someone online asking to have sexual relations with you?
    • The physician may need to explain to the patient what these terms mean
If social media screening raises concerns, the physician may follow up in one of several ways, including follow up visits or referrals to mental health resources. Parents should make sure that their child or teen's physician uses the HEADSSS screening -- and adds the additional "S" to inquire about social media. 


Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash