Month: September 2015

Going Back to School on the Right Foot

September is an exciting time for teachers and children.  Although summer vacation is nice, the new school year brings new students, goals, and challenges.  Below are some tips to get back into routine the right way.


1. Set a firm bed-time 

I have read and written numerous articles about the importance of high quality sleep.  The Sleep Foundation  recommends that school age children get 9-11 hours of sleep each night.  A restful sleep leads to better attention, mood, and energy throughout the long school day.


2. Leave time in the morning for breakfast

No one likes to run out the door.  Leave yourself an extra 15-20 minutes in the morning to have a healthy breakfast with your child.  Use this time to talk to your child about what he/she is excited for that day and make sure that he/she has packed the day’s homework assignments and reading materials.  Breakfast doesn’t have to be complex. Think hardboiled eggs, toast, and a piece of fruit.


3. Start the year with expectations for homework

The dreaded “h” word.  For some kids, sitting down to do homework is a challenge but this is a great way for your kids to practice what they have learned during the school day.  Teachers want to see what the kids are getting wrong so they know what concepts need to be re-taught, so don’t worry too much about having incorrect answers.  A great time to do homework is right after school.  Allow your child a short 20-30 minute snack/play break before jumping into the work.

It’s important to have a dedicated space to do homework.  Even if you are in a small space, try to have a tray table where your child has access to pencils, paper, etc, without being able to view toys, games and television.  Set a timer and break homework into smaller increments if you see your child getting restless.  For more ideas, check out Understood, a great resource for children with learning disabilities.


4. Have open communication with teachers and therapists

Parent involvement is a very strong indicator of student progress. Make time in the first month of school to stop in and speak to teachers and therapists.  If your child has an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), review the goals and services and make sure that he/she is receiving what he is supposed to be receiving. Know what the expectations are in the classroom and in the therapy room, both in class and for carryover at home.  If you see a problem in your child’s academics or behavior, don’t wait until parent teacher conferences-be in touch with your team.


5. Make time to talk with your children

With so much going on during the school year (after school clubs, play dates, etc) it is easy to get lost in the shuffle.  Make sure talking to your children becomes a priority.  Try to avoid questions such as “how was your day?” to which you will undoubtedly get the response “fine” and focus instead on more direct questions, such as “who did you play with at lunch today?” or “what book(s) did you read during reader’s workshop? who were the characters?” Not only will this set up a comfortable dialogue with your children, but it will allow you to know what they have been doing in and out of the classroom.


Welcome back everyone and have a great first day of school!

(If you found this helpful and want more ideas on conversation starters for children, let me know and I will make a follow-up post)

All About that Paci Life


A few months ago, I was engaged in a conversation with some parents about pacifier usage.  I don’t have kids, so usually I receive a response such as “I am sure your feelings will be different once you have a child of your own”.  There is a time and a place for everything, so below, I share with you the “science” behind pacifier usage and the OK times to use it.

Birth-3 months

You have a new baby. Ohmygod. Now what?  Likely, your child cries and does not sleep through the night, so you use a pacifier as a soothing mechanism.  In my book, if you are bottle-feeding, I find this to be completely OK, as long as you don’t keep your child’s mouth plugged with a pacifier all day and all night.  Try not to leave your child sleeping with the pacifier, as this will set them into a habit–and those habits are hard to break, even in a little baby! If you are breast feeding, however, many recommend no pacifier until a milk supply is established–around 4-6 weeks.  Sucking on a pacifier takes a lot of energy and by sucking on a pacifier, rather than a breast, a child will be excreting much less milk-thus affecting your production.

If your child is a preemie, please contact a feeding and swallowing specialist for recommendations on how and when to introduce a pacifier.

3-6 months

You are over that first hump. Congratulations! Your child is now much more alert, cooing more, and giving you more eye contact and smiles. Pacifier usage is still considered OK at this stage of development, and sometimes can even be a helpful tool for developing proper timing for swallowing when introducing those cool new oatmeals and purees.  Again, I would not leave the child sleeping with a pacifier and would try to avoid using it for more than 5 minute increments.  Remember, this is a tool to help your child learn self-regulation-not a solution to end crying.

6-9 months

Your child is likely beginning to babble. This is a very exciting time in a child’s life, as they begin exploring toys by sticking them in their mouth and start linking sounds together to communicate with you.  Because of all this oral development, we want to keep the mouth as open as possible, so the less pacifier usage, the better.  I would try to eliminate pacifier usage completely by 6 months.  You may have a few days of longer crying sessions, but they will quickly disappear as your child has learned to calm him/herself over the past few months.

Around 8-9 months, many children start teething (though this can begin happening as late as 14 months).  Think about this–teeth will only grow until they hit an object and are “told” to stop.  Teeth are pretty interesting–they have sensors that determine when they will hit an object (i.e. your tongue) and then they stop.  So, if your child has a pacifier, the teeth will reach the pacifier and stop, giving teeth that curved look that will remain until your child loses his/her baby teeth at 5-6 years old.

9 months-Present

By now it should be clear that my argument is to eliminate pacifier usage (including nap time sucking) by 6-7 months.  This is because after that point, children begin growing teeth, and the constant pacifier sucking can actually lead to elevating a child’s palate (top of mouth) which can eventually cause some airway problems and/or attention issues.

To parents present and future, I hope these guidelines were helpful.  If you need a more specific plan for pacifier weaning, feel free to contact me at

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