social language group

Social Language Group

Plum Tree Child & Adolescent Psychology and Beyond Words Speech Therapy have teamed up to offer a social language group to children ages 5-8.

This group will focus on helping children achieve the following skills: Managing peer conflict, Self-assertion, Sharing, Friendship skills, Reading social cues

Social Language Group

 

For More Information: 630.549.6245 or ann@www.theplumtree.net

Can Your Child’s IQ Improve?

IQ–what an elusive subject! What is it? What does it mean? How is it measured? What is a normal IQ? What does “gifted” mean? Where does IQ come from? Does it change over time? Can IQ be improved? Read on, reader.

IQ is a number that represents a person’s ability to make use of knowledge: acquisition, comprehension, storing, analyzing, synthesizing, reasoning, producing, and communicating. There is a long history of debate about the definition of IQ.  Even while the debate continues, psychologists administer standardized tests to measure IQ. What’s being measured? Visual-spatial skills. Speed of thought. Reasoning and inference abilities. Fund of knowledge. Capacity to use “mental scratchpad” to hold and move images and concepts. Adeptness at communicating what you know. Fine motor skills. Common sense. IQ tests define IQ as composed of these many skills…rather than one global ability. But, one overall score is yielded by a mathematical formula that combines many subtest scores.

IQ scores range from below 70 to over 200. Beyond 200, it’s difficult to measure; these are IQ scores of geniuses who can graduate from ivy league schools before they can drive a car. Over 80% of the population has an IQ between 80 and 120. Scores of 80-89 are considered to be in the Low Average range of intellectual functioning. Scores of 90-109 are Average. Scores of 110-119 are High Average. An IQ of 125 is considered by many schools to be “gifted.” Scores of 120-129 are Superior. And scores above 130 are Very Superior. IQ scores are based on a person’s test performance compared to others their age.

This is important: To do well on IQ tests, a child must be engaged, focused, emotionally regulated, and motivated to do well. This means that children with mental illness sometimes do pooly on IQ tests. Does this mean they are “stupid?” Not at all. A child with Asperger’s Disorder, for example, may simply not be motivated to follow the instructions. A child with ADHD may not have the ability to pay attention when necessary. But these kids are often, in the real world, just as smart as their peers. A child can do poorly on IQ test for a number of reasons, but can do well only if she is truly able. Therefore, it is possible for IQ tests to underestimate a child’s intellectual abilities. But, an IQ score can never overestimate a child’s smarts.

An IQ number is handy, especially in academics. While IQ tests do not directly measure a person’s capacity to learn, they do show how well a child is likely to do in school. A child’s IQ score(s) helps parents and teachers form reasonable expectations for a child’s academic progress. IQ scores are the foundation of knowing, truly, if a learning disability is present. (Even though, in Illinois, schools have moved away from using IQ in this way). IQ tests can outline a child’s specific strengths and weaknesses. Although they are not diagnostic (e.g., they do not in themselves show ADHD), IQ tests can point parents in the right direction for next steps in treatment.

How does a child “get” his IQ? Hard to say. There’s a genetic component, linking especially the child’s mother’s IQ to his. There are also very strong environmental correlates to IQ. Love. Diet. Sleep. Safety. These are foundations that help support brain growth. Studies have shown that the amount of brain growth in early infancy is linked to IQ.

IQ tests are available for very young children. There are even ways to guess an infant’s IQ (hint: duration of stare). Standardized IQ tests are available for children as young as 2 1/2. IQ tests are sometimes required for admission into elite or private schools, where tests are given when children are 5 or 6 years old. In the psychology biz, we say that “IQ is generally thought to be stable after about age 12.” This means that whatever score a 12 year old achieves, he is likely to get roughly the same score when he’s 15, 20, 30, and so on. (In middle age, IQ scores tend to change: speed scores go down, knowledge scores go up). Age 12 is the magic number for a child’s cognitive development, the age when he can reason with relative sophistication.

Yet, psychologists know that a child’s IQ can change over time, even after 12. Most times, the change is not significant. A new study found that significant changes do occur, and concludes that changes in IQ reflect changes in ability. Remember that IQ is measured by tests that look for certain things. If a child has been skipping school, he’ll do poorly on parts of the tests that measure fund of knowledge. If she took cold medicine on the day of the test, and is a cognitively “fuzzy,” she may struggle in speed tests. Environmental factors can always play a role in changing IQ scores. But that is not what the researchers are saying. They’re saying that, based on changes in brain development, children’s intellectual abilities change. The sample size in the study was small, but it is an interesting observation.

So, if IQs change  (significantly or not) can you improve your child’s IQ? You can sure help her improve IQ test skills, so she’ll score higher.

  • From ages 0-2: Read to your child. Often. Talk to him, using direct and sustained eye contact. Turn off the TV. Don’t buy the “education-based” video games. Love and praise your child. Play music you like for her (it does not have to be classical music). Explain everyday things to him. (Tell her why orange juice can sting a cut on a lip. Tell him why a hot stove must not be touched.) Praise your young scientist for repeating things over and over. Play peek-a-boo and hide-and-seek. Enforce a healthy diet, and try for organic foods if possible. Use routine, with predictable consequences for behavior. Introduce math concepts. Sing the ABCs. Make sure your baby gets enough sleep.
  • From ages 2-7, a child should be exposed to new things-music, sports, subjects, activities. Keep reading aloud to your child, and praise her efforts to read to you. Talk to your child about why people behave as they do. Who makes the rules in society? Why? Buckle down on homework, establishing high expectations for work habits. Extra work (school worksheets during summer) is recommended in reasonable doses. Homework should not be a fight. If it is, talk to school teachers or a child psychologist. This is the age that learning disorders can start to show. Get a handle on them early. If you have the opposite issue–your child wants to learn more than you can possibly teach–try to connect her to an expert in her field of interest. Perhaps a college professor would be willing to tutor your child for a couple hours on a weekend. Schedule playdates. Continue healthy sleep and diet activites. At this age, children are scientists. Conduct fun and interesting household projects that help your child explore their world. Play guessing games such as, “I spy”, and “I’m thinking of something…” Do puzzles and card games.
  • Children 8-12: Encourage independent reading and books-on-CDs. Enforce healthy sleep and diet. Limit TV and video game time. Be an active participant in your child’s academics, remembering that you are doing him no favors by completing homework for him. Teach work skills, including: organization, time management, scheduling, focus. Praise your child for good report cards, but avoid monetary rewards for them. The goal is to help your child internalize the value of good grades, and not simply work for an external reward. Use intermittent reinforcement. Listen to teacher’s feedback about any problematic academic or social behaviors. Listen to your child. Encourage her to pursue her intellectual passions (which may not be theoretical physics or advanced mathematical theory). Institute a “family game night,” where you play cards, puzzles, or other games that help build reasoning skills. Introduce your child to newspapers and have easy chats about what is happening in the world. Talk about governments, nationalities, and cultures. Explain real-life issues like, “why do we keep our money in a bank?” “what should you do if a bully picks on you?” and “why does the guy from the gas company read our meter?”
  • Ages 12-18: Children become increasingly independent. The foundation for IQ is already set, but test performance can improve for some children. There is no substitute for attending school regularly, paying attention in class, and doing homework. These are musts. Keep a close watch on your child’s use of electronics. Phones, video games, and computers can interrupt sleep, cause social disruption, and distract children from work. Help your child link her academic performance to her long term goals. Consider hiring a peer tutor, someone your child can actually tolerate. Help your child continue to build work skills such as organization, time management, avoiding procrastination, and breaking down big assignments into small “do-able” parts.

Our kids may not become Albert Einsteins or Stephen Hawkings, but they can learn and improve skills that help them get higher IQs.

 

Pesticides Linked to ADHD Symptoms

Pesticides Linked to ADHD Symptoms

The “organic movement” has roots (pardon the pun) in studies about harmful effects of pesticides. Pesticides Linked to ADHD Symptoms. A new study (conducted by Canadian researchers used data collected from nearly 1,140 children participating in the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) suggests more bad news about pesticides. There seems to be a link between level of exposure to pesticides and the development of ADHD symptoms. This MSN Childhood Health article (by Leah Zerbe Rodale) states that “this study is the first to look at everyday exposure levels in children from around the country. And as it turns out, U.S. kids are exposed to harmful levels of pesticides in their food, day in and day out.” The take-home message is: avoid using pesticides around your own lawn, and–if possible–try to buy organic foods.

BFFs are Good for Kids

BFFs are Good for Kids

Best friends are great for kids. Pediatrics professors out of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center released results of a study about childhood friendships. They found that having a best friend–not just any friend, but a best friend–was related to less stress in kids. The professors checked kids’ thoughts, emotions, hormones, and their spit. Results (yes, even from the spit) indicated that kids with a best friend feel less stressed, and better about themselves. Child psychologists know that one of the best indicators of pediatric mental health is the ability to form and sustain meaningful interpersonal relationships. Mommies, keep scheduling those play-dates! This article on TodayHealth by Linda Carroll discusses the study. BFFs are Good for Kids.

Social Media Effects on Children

Social Media Effects on Children

A CNN article reviews the role of electronic media in children’s lives—the good, the bad, and the narcissistic. The research was conducted by Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D., professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, and technology researcher. Below is a summary of the major trends observed by Dr. Rosen. Social Media Effects on Children.

Positive Results

– Social media is a great tool for engaging and captivating children
– Online networking can teach socialization
– Online users show more “virtual empathy”
– Social Media can help children establish a sense of self

Negative Results

– Students using social media during study breaks received lower grades
– Children who use social media tend to be more narcissistic
– Research suggests social media can increase anxiety and depression in children

Dr. Weller suggests that parents stay up-to-date on social media trends. Become familiar with what sites your child uses. (St. Charles school district has recently offered teen-led classes to parents for help with this). Like anything done in mindful moderation, social media can play a role in a well-balanced life.

Healthy Eating

Healthy Eating

The American Psychological Association (APA) posted an article about helping children develop better eating and exercise habits. Below are the benefits of good nutrition and daily exercise, according to the APA.

Good nutrition is essential to healthy brain development in children which is, of course, critical to learning.

Mental and behavioral benefits

– perform better academically
– feel better about themselves, their bodies, and their abilities
– cope with stress and regulate their emotions better
– avoid feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.

Establishing healthy eating and exercise habits early in life can lead to long term healthy behavior in adulthood.

Healthy EatingPhysical benefits

Children need a wide variety of nutrients (e.g., protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, minerals, vitamins) to assist in their daily growth and development and to protect them from childhood illnesses.

Daily exercise also helps children to build stronger muscles and bones and limit excess body fat.

Healthy eating also cuts down on risk for cavities, eating disorders and unhealthy weight control behaviors (i.e., fasting, skipping meals, eating very little food, vomiting, using diet pills, laxatives, or diuretics), malnutrition, and iron deficiency.

Healthy eating and consistent physical activity help to prevent chronic illnesses that appear in adulthood associated with obesity, e.g., heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and several forms of cancer.

The relationship between a healthy diet and a healthy mind is perhaps intuitive. But scientists are discovering more every day about how what-children-eat is related to their behaviors. Particularly ADHD research shows how food allergies and sensitivities can mimic ADHD sypmptoms. Before starting any medication, Dr. Weller recommends ruling-out food-related issues. A visit to a Registered Dietician is a good first step.

Limit children’s time with television and video games

Limit children’s time with television and video games

Today’s parents are usually good at monitoring the content of TV and video games, ensuring that children are not exposed to violence, sexuality, and other adult themes. However, in many households, children may spend hours each day watching TV and playing video games. There is solid evidence that too much TV and video games increase the likelihood of a child developing problems with attention. A good rule of thumb for TV/video game usage is less than 2 hours daily, the less the better.

Limiting time spent with TV and video games is especially important for very young children. According to Dimitri Christakis, MD, MPH, Director of the Child Health Institute and author of The Elephant in the Living Room: Make Television Work For Your Kids, children as young as a few months old are watching too much TV, and may be developing permanent attention problems. In an article on education.com, author Rose Garrett writes, “For every hour of television toddlers watch a day, they are ten percent more likely to develop attention problems at school,” according to Dr. Christakis.

What’s more, according to a recent study about children who watched who watched more than 2 hours of TV per week 40% more likely to have symptoms of ADHD in adolescence than children who watched less TV. The problem is the speed of the frames. Fast-paced electronic media seem to train children’s brains to attend only to faced-paced stimulation (e.g., the opposite of a teacher at a whiteboard). Click for video game and TV time recommendations.

I like this MSN Health article by Rich Maloof: It nicely summarizes medical research and recommendations about TV & ADHD.

 

 

Mental Illness in Children and Adults

Mental Illness in Children and Adults

Even beyond childhood traits (such as impulsivity, emotional reactivity, hyperactivity, etc), kids’ brains and bodies seem to experience and certainly to express mental discomfort differently than adults. For example, when adults are tired they tend to be lethargic and sleepy. Tired children often become agitated and irritable.

Children with mental illness behave differently than adults with mental illness. When adults are depressed, they tend to be characterized by sadness, slowing down, and gloominess. Depressed children tend to be grumpy—not sad—and they may have extra energy and agitation. While adults with ADHD are usually just restless, most children with ADHD cannot sit still for more than a few moments. Adults with PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) usually use words to relive trauma, while younger children with PTSD show their trauma in play and behavior. Adults with Bipolar Disorder tend to have discrete “cycles” of moods that last for long periods of times. But children with Bipolar Disorder tend to have many mood changes each day.

Helping children with mental illness hinges on the understanding that most children do not have the vocabulary or concepts to accurately describe their internal experiences. They almost never know “why” they behave as they do. They are often unaware of how events link together—for example, how an argument with mom in the morning led to poor test performance in their first period class. Children tend to be more resilient than others would suppose, and each child has strengths and resources available to them on their road to a happier, more fulfilling life.

For more information about childhood and adolescent mental illness, visit the website for National Institute of Mental Health.

 

Good Old-Fashioned Play

Good Old-Fashioned Play

Are kids today less creative? Are their over-booked schedules to blame? An article written by Rachael Rettner suggests kids these days are narrow-minded and just not as creative as they used to be. Good, old-fashioned play may be the cure.

Kyung Hee Kim, a creativity researcher at the College of William and Mary, conducted a study in 2010 of creativity tests dating back to the 1970’s. Kim mentions, “children are becoming less humorous, less imaginative and less able to elaborate on ideas”.

Major Causes

– Standardized Testing
– TV Watching
– Excessive Social Media
– Overbooked Schedules

Children are very resilient and good old-fashion play may be the cure. Sandra Russ, a psychologist at Case Western University, says that kids nurture their creativity abilities when they pretend. “Elements of insight, fantasy and emotional expression all go into this type of story-making.”