Tuesday, June 11, 2019

7 Best-Kept Secrets to Improve Your Focus

It may be summertime and the "livin' is easy" right now, but this could also be the BEST time to learn how to re-focus and concentrate on your priorities and the tasks that matter. However, HOW does one DO that when focus is a real challenge? There are actually some very practical steps you can take NOW during this summer season in order to experience better focus and concentration throughout the entire year. We're here to help you do just that with a set of seven steps to improve your focus and concentration on the things that truly matter.

7 Best-Kept Secrets to Improve Your Focus

1. Plan and Structure Your Day
Think about your day BEFORE it begins instead of REACTING to it throughout the day. Consider the day of the week and the tasks that may be associated with that particular weekday. Then take into account the new or specific tasks for just that day. While you are doing this, you are beginning to formulate a mental list of priorities to address throughout that day. This is the first step to improving your focus.

2. Create Lists
Next, write down (yes, write---not enter on your phone!) the important tasks you must address on that day. Use actual paper or Post-It Notes to do this. If needed, break down each task into steps on a separate sheet or sticky note. If yo.u find it even more helpful, place these lists at eye level in your workspace. Tackle each tacks separately. Then cross each one off as you accomplish the tasks. The results may surprise you. Not only will you improve your focus, but you will discover that your productivity will increase proportionately.

3. Detach from Tech
The phone is so often the primary culprit of focus issues. It demands your attention almost constantly, if you let it. Take control of that phone and the other devices that steal away your attention and take your focus to other things that may very well have nothing to do with your goals. Set aside the phone or at least turn off the sound or notification settings. This may be the ultimate challenge for many of us---to disconnect from our tech. In doing so, however, not only will you turn off the distractions caused by tech, you will also be decreasing the stress caused by others' priorities served up via those tech devices.

4. Be Mindful
Mindfulness is a buzz word in our world today. True mindfulness is "the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something." It is a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Mindfulness is often used as a therapeutic technique, but we all could benefit from the use of it on a daily basis. Begin to practice genuine mindfulness by first becoming aware of the moments of multi-tasking you do. These multi-tasking moments can drain your energy and your brain's ability to pay attention to what is currently most important to you.

5. Decrease Multi-tasking
"This ONE thing I do." Make this your mantra. Address ONE task at a time AND do it WELL. Then look at the next task on your list and address it---without looking at the rest of your list in that same moment. Doing this will not only de-stress and improve your mindfulness, it will also improve the QUALITY of the work achieved. What a win-win for you and your colleagues!

6. Take Restful Breaks
Do not underestimate the POWER of a brain break or pause for rest. Ten minutes spent in stepping away from a task can save you much-needed time later because your improved attention and focus as well as the quality of work produced AFTER the break will also improve.

7. Remember to Feed Your Brain
Did you know that the RIGHT foods can improve your focus, too? Yes, indeed---and in a big way, too! There are surprising benefits apart from helping to survive and provide energy. Food can affect our mood, increase energy, mental clarity and remove brain fog. Most of the time we overlook the wonderful benefits that food can provide and don’t realize our lack of focus could be due to not eating proper food items. Try to avoid sugar and trans fats as they can make you feel depressed and mentally foggy.

Try some of the following "brain" foods and you will soon discover the positive difference in your level of focus throughout the day:

-Fish rich in omega-3's (salmon, sardines, herring, etc.)
-Avocados, celery, kale and sea vegetables
-Dark chocolate (yum!)
-Olive and coconut oils
-Other foods, too.


5 Ways to Improve Your Focus---by Jes Dickerson

12 Brain Foods That Supercharge Your Memory, Focus & Mood---by Deane Alban

For information about customizable focusing tools for readers and learners of all ages, please visit: FocusandRead.com ---Tools for challenged readers of all ages!

Image courtesy of: Brennan Innovators, LLC and Pixabay

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Patriotic Activities and Resources to Help Avoid the Summer Slide

Can it really be the start of summer? Wasn't it just yesterday that we were knee-deep in snow and longing for the wonderful warmth of a summer day? Time marches on, as they say! Before we know it, Labor Day will be looming, and children will be returning to school. For now, though, let's enjoy this great start to a new summer season and not waste a minute of it!

While we are appreciating this special time with our families, it is also a very good idea to keep in mind and help prevent what is often called the summer slide or summer slowdown, terms used to describe the loss of reading and math skills that children have learned. This loss can occur when there is a decrease or lack in stimulation of young brains during extended school vacations or other academic break times.

Though it may seem challenging to do so, it is very possible to avoid this loss of skills by working with children, using stimulating activities during those long vacation times. This holiday weekend is a perfect time to introduce these kinds of activities to help your child or grandchild avoid this learning loss with a variety of resources.

Should you choose to utilize some or all of the many resources in the link provided below here, your child or grandchild will be ahead when the new school year begins. So, keep the link handy for your use during the coming holiday weekend. You might also want to refer to it again over the the 4th of July or the Labor Day break, too. At any rate, you will be helping your child enjoy the patriotic holidays as well as enabling him to keep his mind sharp over the summer vacation period.

Yes, we can still have fun in the sun this holiday weekend and throughout the season, while at the same time, avoid the summer slide with an array of enjoyable reading activities, games and other related resources having a patriotic flare. That way, long after the holiday weekend is history, your children (or grandchildren) will be skipping around the summer slide and well on their way to gearing up for the coming school year while still having fun this Memorial Day Weekend---and beyond!

Remember to KEEP them reading and learning ALL summer long! Please let us ALSO remember our great men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we might have the freedoms we hold dear.

Have a good and safe Memorial Day Weekend with your family!

140+ Patriotic Reading Activities & Resources (Most are FREE!)

For information about customizable tools for readers and learners of all ages, please visit: FocusandRead.com ---Tools for challenged readers of all ages!

Image courtesy of: Brennan Innovators, LLC and Pixabay

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

BEST Tips and Resources for Dysgraphia

When a child or teen consistently struggles with the physical act of handwriting or conveying thoughts in written form, it may be a strong indication of what is called dysgraphia. This challenge can effect individuals of all ages, not just children or teens, and can not only impact a student's academic achievement but also his self-esteem---and not in a positive way.

How Will I Know If a Child Has Dysgraphia?

For years, dysgraphia was the diagnosis used for issues with writing. Now, dysgraphia is no longer a diagnosis. However, there is currently a diagnosis called specific learning disorder with impairment in written expression. This diagnosis refers to trouble conveying thoughts in writing, rather than transcription issues.

Evaluators still have ways to identify the transcription challenges, however. Some of the tests for broader writing issues include sub-tests for spelling. There are also tests for fine motor skills (the ability to make movements using the small muscles in our hands, wrists and fingers). And there are tests for motor planning skills (the ability to remember and perform steps to make a movement happen).

Several types of professionals can evaluate kids with writing issues. Psychologists test for learning issues. Occupational therapists and physical therapists test fine and gross motor skills. There are also other specialists who help kids with developmental coordination disorder (DCD) able to do this.

Trouble with writing can be caused by other learning challenges. For example, poor spelling can be the result of reading issues like dyslexia. Poor handwriting might be caused by DCD (sometimes referred to as dyspraxia).

To get the appropriate help and support for your child, it’s important to know the cause of the child’s difficulties. A full evaluation would be a good first step and can help you understand these challenges, along with your child’s strengths.

What Can Help Manage the Symptoms of Dysgraphia?

There are a number of things that can help your child with dysgraphia challenges. These include supports and services at school, therapies outside of school, and strategies you can try at home.

Types of Support and Accommodations for Dysgraphia

Appropriate Therapies: The main treatment for handwriting issues is occupational therapy (OT). Therapists can work with kids to improve fine motor skills and motor planning. Physical therapy can help with arm position and posture.

These therapies may be available free at a public school via an IEP. Some parents may also pay privately for therapy outside of school, depending on resources available.

School Supports: Kids with dysgraphia may get supports at school through an IEP or a 504 plan. There are a number of accommodations for writing issues. Kids may also get assistive technology and other tools. These can range from simple pencil grips to dictation software. As much as possible, create a classroom that is dysgraphia-friendly with accommodations like the following:

1. Yes, DO Teach Cursive Writing: Cursive writing has fewer starting points than disconnected print letters, which translates to improved writing speed, more consistent letter sizing, and neater overall appearance of writing. Watch a free webinar on the importance of cursive writing instruction for students and use cursive writing books from Handwriting Without Tears to teach cursive writing as early as first grade. Remember that cursive writing helps promote more connectivity between the two hemispheres of the human brain.

2. DO Teach Typing: Typing can be easier than writing once students are fluent with keyboards. Teach typing skills starting as early as kindergarten and allow for ample typing practice in the classroom. Many schools and districts have typing programs to support their students’ budding typing skills. Great online typing programs include Nessy Fingers Touch Typing (which costs money), TypingClub and the games at Typing.com.

3. DO Provide Access to Speech-to-Text Tools: Assistive technology accommodations can support students with dysgraphia in their classroom writing tasks in all grades. There are several free, easy-to-use speech-to-text dictation tools. Students can use Google’s Voice Typing tool, Dragon Dictation, or Apple’s Speak Screen functions.

4. DO Use Graph Paper for Math Assignments and Tests: Graph paper helps students with dysgraphia stay in the lines, which becomes increasingly important in the later grades when they’re faced with more complex math tasks. Reduce unintended errors by providing graph paper for student tests or as a background for homework assignments. Consider using the free printable math grids like those available at Do2Learn (please see Dysgraphia Resources below here).

5. DO Allow for Note-Taking Accommodations: Copying notes from a whiteboard can be a particular challenge for students with dysgraphia. Allow students to take pictures of lecture notes to review later. Students can use a free optical character reader (OCR) like Prizmo Go (for iOS) or Google Keep (for Android) to automatically read text from the photos to review those notes.

6. DO Be Deliberate about Hanging Students’ Written Work: Classroom writing is difficult for students with dysgraphia. Written assignments may take two or three times as long to complete, and often they will look sloppy even if the student has tried to produce their best work. When displaying student work, consider waiting to hang assignments until everyone has finished so students with dysgraphia don’t feel shame at having everyone else’s work on display while theirs is still in progress. Another option is to hang typed work so students with dysgraphia can be proud of the finished product that hangs alongside the work of their peers.

These are just a few things that may help a student with dysgraphia in the classroom. But mainly it’s important to be creative about accommodations and to communicate with students about their individual needs.

Help at Home: There are many ways you can help your child with writing issues. Here are just a handful:

1. Locate a good drawing exercise for improving handwriting.
2. View an expert explaining how to use dictation software on a mobile device.
3. Discover tools that can help with writing difficulties.
4. Watch a video on how different pencil grips might help your child.
5. Try a variety of multi-sensory techniques for teaching handwriting.
6. Download tools, apps and other resources to help with handwriting. (See Dysgraphia Resources below here.)

Dysgraphia Resources

Dysgraphia: What You Need to Know - by Understood

10 Tips to Help Children with Dysgraphia

BEST Websites for Dyslexia & Dysgraphia

Creating a Dysgraphia-Friendly Classroom - by Jessica Hamman, edutopia
Here are 6 ways to support students with dysgraphia—a learning difference that affects a person’s ability to produce written work.

8 Tools for Kids with Dysgraphia - by Understood
These tools and apps can make writing easier. She may already use some of them at school, but it can help to have them at home, too. Most tools are sold in online catalogs for occupational therapists.

Dysgraphia-I Created an App for That - by Amberlynn Gifford Slavin, ADDitude
It’s called SnapType, and it helps kids keep up with their peers in class when their penmanship holds them back.

FREE Printable Math Grids - from Do2Learn

For information about customizable tools for readers and learners of all ages, please visit: FocusandRead.com ---Tools for challenged readers of all ages!

Image courtesy of: Brennan Innovators, LLC and Pixabay

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Struggling to Write Those Ideas on Paper?

In today's world, it is more important than ever to be able to organize thoughts and get them down on paper or screen. Offline and online media is everywhere, and if we want to be "heard" by others, we need to be able to express and convey those thoughts WELL.

Being able to express oneself is a unique skill and even a gift for some individuals. When you encourage and cultivate this capability in your child or student, you give her the invaluable power to meaningfully share her thoughts and ideas with the world. To help her get started, you might find the following 5 steps (adapted from teacher-writer Karen Dikson) beneficial in organizing thoughts and beginning to get those ideas down on paper or screen:

5 Basic Steps to Writing Success

1. Practice, practice, practice!
2. Find examples of good writing!
3. Use Pinterest or graphic organizers to organize ideas & resources!
4. Brainstorm and plan what to write.
5. Use a tablet to get ideas down faster and more efficiently.

When Dysgraphia Adds to the Writing Challenge

There can often be an additional component for some children or teens when it is time to express their ideas and get them down on paper or screen. This component makes writing nearly impossible for a significant number of individuals. It is called dysgraphia, a handwriting challenge characterized chiefly by very poor or often illegible writing or writing that takes an unusually long time and great effort to complete. When present in children, dysgraphia is classified as a learning disability. When it occurs as an acquired condition in adults, it can sometimes be the result of damage to the brain (as from stroke or trauma).

When a person of any age or ability struggles with dysgraphia, writing takes far longer (if it can be produced at all) to complete. As a result, dysgraphia all too often negatively impacts learning success and self-esteem. To provide support for an individual with dysgraphia, keep in mind that technology can go a long way to help. A laptop or tablet device will take pressure off the proper formation of hand-written phrases and sentences, allowing the individual to focus on his ideas instead. A digital app, mp3 player or other recording device can be just the thing to free a "great thinker" and finally enable the expression of wonderful, innovative ideas. In addition, consider the following strategies from the Learning Disabilities Association of America to help someone you know challenged with dysgraphia:

Helpful Strategies for Dysgraphia

1. Suggest use of word processor
2. Avoid chastising student for sloppy, careless work
3. Use oral exams
4. Allow use of tape recorder for lectures
5. Allow the use of a note taker
6. Provide notes or outlines to reduce the amount of writing required
7. Reduce copying aspects of work (pre-printed math problems)
8. Allow use of wide rule paper and graph paper
9. Suggest use of pencil grips and /or specially designed writing aids
10. Provide alternatives to written assignments (i.e., video reports, audio reports, etc.)

Implementing one or more of the above strategies and combining them with the 5 steps for writing success will enable your child or students to be well on the road to improved writing---AND without the usual struggles and "pain" so often experienced by reluctant, organization-challenged or dysgraphic individuals. We hope you will see the transformation in the very near future!

Writing Resources to Help Your Child or Students

How To Inspire Your Kids to Write and Why It’s So Important
by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Books that Teach About the Writing Process (for Gr. K-5)
from This Reading Mama blog
If you teach writing to young learners, this book list has over 15 books to help you teach young writers all about the writing process.

5 Steps to Help Your Kid Write a Better Essay
by Karen Dikson and Parent Toolkit

Dysgraphia Resources to Help Your Child or Students

The BEST Dictation Software for 2019
Here's the short list of the best dictation apps, with more information following, such as how we chose them, tips for using dictation software and detailed descriptions of the apps.

10 Tips to Help Children with Dysgraphia
Does your child struggle to write on the appropriate lines provided? Do you know or teach a child who is challenged and/or frustrated with simply forming basic letters and words? This article will provide strategies and tips to help children challenged with dysgraphia.

For information about customizable tools for readers of all ages, please visit: FocusandRead.com ---Tools for challenged readers of all ages!

Image courtesy of: Brennan Innovators, LLC and Pixabay

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Ultimate Guide to Games for Kids with ADHD

Finding the best games for children and teens with ADHD can help reduce hyperactivity and unfocused behavior. On the other hand, the wrong games can create chaos and conflict in the family and in the child's peer group.

Children of all ages and backgrounds love to play. There is no end to the many games that they want to experience! However, when it comes to a child with ADHD, it is the choice of games that will make the difference.

Because the child with ADHD is very often hyperactive (those with ADD will not have this hyperactivity component), many board games like Scrabble and Monopoly will not interest him. Instead, these children need to run, to jump and to shout. Actually, they need to burn that excessive energy somehow and in productive (not destructive) ways.

Recommended Outdoor Games for Kids with ADHD

- Soccer
- Hockey (ice or roller)
- Tag
- Scavenger Hunt
- Follow the Leader
- Red Rover
- Hopscotch
- Lawn Twister (Click for directions here & below.)
- Giant Jenga
- Bean Bag Ladder Toss
- Giant Ring Toss and Pool Noodle Target Throwing
- Glow in the Dark Capture the Flag
- Glow in the Dark Bowling
- Giant Lawn Matching Game

Important Facts & Strategies When Seeking Games for Kids with ADHD

• The best games for ADHD children are those that are more outdoor-based, especially those requiring a higher energy level. However, certain outdoor activities might not work well for the ADHD child that seem to be excellent for other children.

• The ADHD child requires outdoor games that keep him active. Many children with ADHD don't enjoy games like baseball because there is too much standing around and waiting involved. They prefer climbing trees, running, jumping, hide and seek, etc.

• Avoid letting your child sit in front of TV or play video games for extended periods. Brain scans have shown that screen time makes ADHD worse. Put a limit of 1 hour on these types of activities.

• Playing games outdoors has a huge positive effect on hyperactive kids. One Illinois study found that ADHD children benefit by having a view of nature outside their windows.

• In another study, children who were able to view a tree or park outside their windows at home actually earned better grades than children whose windows looked out on a parking lot or other similar view. Greenery has a positive effect on all of us, especially children with attention issues.

• Activities and Games for ADHD children that take place in fresh air and healthier environments are good for these children. Plan to have weekends and vacations in wilderness area rather than in amusement parks or in city.

• Games with physical training are often enjoyable to ADHD children. A good workout is an alternative choice. It increases the flow of blood to the brain and decreases nervousness and anxiety. Such a workout with increased blood flow also releases endorphins into the brain, providing a feeling of calmness and a greater sense of well being.

• Many children with ADHD have problems with memory. To determine if your child has memory problems, play memory games with them and compare them to their peers.to check for deficits in this skill area.

• Command-type games make great ADHD games. Give him one command, after completing the job give him two commands simultaneously. Keep on increasing the number of commands until he fails to follow the command. This will actually improve his listening skills.

• Activities with model building, carving, woodworking, mosaics, jigsaw puzzles or that involve mechanical skills and hands-on activity are very beneficial. Children with ADHD often love to figure things out and solve puzzles. These types of games also help promote the following of directions, another very important life skill.

How to Choose the BEST Indoor Games for Children with ADHD---When Needed

As stated above, physically-active games are essential for ADHD children. However, it is critically important to build healthy relationships in the family. As children get older, playing indoor games with parents, siblings and grandparents is a great way to accomplish this. Also, weather will all too often play a significant part in the need for indoor games.

The choice of games is extremely important for these children. Children with ADHD often experience meltdowns while playing board games that move too slowly. Choose games that do not lag but move along and engage the child from the very beginning.

Parents and teachers will want to look for games that move quickly, providing interest and interaction on an ongoing basis. Or better yet, play games where everyone plays at the same time. The card game called Pit is a great example of this.

Another type of game to consider is a strategy game, especially the kind that requires a good deal of critical thinking. Children with ADHD are typically very smart and will thrive when needing to "figure things out."

Recommended Board Games for Kids with ADHD

- Pit by Winning Moves Games
- The Memory Game by Hasbro
- Chutes and Ladders by Hasbro
- Hoot Owl Hoot by Peaceable Kingdom
- Battleship by Hasbro
- Hedbanz by Spin Master
- Jenga by Hasbro

Other Recommended Indoor Games

- Charades
- Balloon games
- Nerf games
- Hide-and-seek
- Foosball


Games for ADHD Children: Activities to Reduce Hyperactivity
from ADHDchildparenting.com
General information for parents and teachers about locating the best types of games for children with ADHD.

5 Best Games for ADHD Kids from PRIDE Reading Program
These non-digital games are the best in their category for help with improving memory, focus, strategizing, communicating, executive functioning, social skills & more!

2 FREE Online Games for Kids with ADHD from Fupa
These 2 games were created to help promote better focus, more patience and decreased impulsivity for children with ADHD.

What Are the Best Activities for Kids With ADHD? from NewLifeOutlook
There is no one activity that every ADHD child will love. Everyone has his own tastes, but activities such as some organized sports, teams and organizations, indoor and outdoor play, and art therapy can be a good place to start.

5 Great Outdoor Activities for Children with ADHD from Brain Balance Centers
Activity for youngsters with ADHD requires a lot of thought and preparation. To help you plan some great quality family time, here are five "fun" outdoor activities to engage children with ADHD.

For information about customizable focusing tools for readers of all ages with ADHD, please visit: FocusandRead.com ---Tools for challenged readers of all ages!

Image courtesy of: Brennan Innovators, LLC and Pixabay

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

6 Great Resources for Sensory Kids

It can be surprising to some parents and teachers that kids need to move in order to focus. Also, when the five senses are incorporated into a lesson plan or learning session, more learning results and retention is greater. If this is new to you, then take heart. We are about to provide you with some great resources to help the kids you know improve focus, reading and learning.

Often, in mid-year, teachers need to brush off their usual go-to learning strategies and create new ones to once again grab student attention and increase their engagement. One of the ways to do this is to appeal to at least one of the five senses while teaching a particular lesson. The more senses involved in the learning session, the more successful the lesson will be for the children. Retention of content learned will also be significantly increased.

Finally, there are a significant number of children and teens who are challenged with sensory issues or what is called sensory processing disorder (SPD). Loud sounds, rough or itchy clothing and/or other negative sensory experiences can cause real roadblocks to learning for these children. Sometimes, these students respond much more positively when soft, tactile manipulatives and tools, kinesthetic movement or soothing music are used when teaching. Shortening a learning session or providing breaks at appropriate times during a lesson can also be of benefit to many. There are a variety of strategies teachers and parents can use to help children with these sensory needs.

So with the above points established, we have a list for you that should help you enrich your teaching methods in the classroom AND provide help to parents at home when homework needs to be completed. We hope you will find that teaching, learning and parenting with these sensory resources will be more productive and enjoyable for ALL!

6 GREAT Resources for Sensory Kids

Resources for Parents & Professionals - STAR Institute for SPD

Helpful Websites for Sensory Kids from SensorySmarts.com

Classroom Accommodations for Sensory Processing Issues from Understood.org

GREAT Collection of Resources for SPD---via Pinterest

The OT Toolbox Resource Center from The OT Toolbox
(Enter "Sensory" in "All Categories" drop-down menu.)
Website: https://www.theottoolbox.com/

SENSORY ACTIVITY IDEAS from Cara Koscinski, MOT, OTR/L of The Pocket OT
Printable PDF document: https://bit.ly/2QOI2im
Website: https://www.pocketot.com/

For information about customizable sensory tools for readers of all ages, please visit: FocusandRead.com ---Tools for challenged readers of all ages!

Image courtesy of: Brennan Innovators, LLC

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

How to Read with More Focus and Retention in the Year Ahead

Let’s face it, today’s world of handheld devices, infinite social media posts and other similar types of distractions, make it more than a little challenging to maintain needed focus while reading.

For the New Year, make a “reading resolution” to take important steps to increase your focus, not only when reading but also in other areas of your life. Keep in mind 3 "focusing" goals for 2019---More focus, better focus and sustained focus.

Set aside the time to implement the following tips. You’ll be so glad you did!

1. Turn off the instant messengers, cell phone and email notifiers.

2. Practice proper posture in a chair with good support.

3. Organize your reading/study environment PRIOR to your reading session.

4. Clear your mind for 1 minute.

5. Read in 30-minute intervals.

6. Read with one specific goal in mind.

Read with mindfulness. Have a specific goal in mind before you read the content. This will not only improve your focus, but will also help you get through the material more efficiently. The more specific your goal is, the better your concentration will be.

Although these are simple strategies, they can make such a difference in positively impacting your ability to focus when reading. Practice these tips to not only improve your reading but to also help you increase focus, even in other areas of your life. Implement these tips on a daily basis to begin forming the habit of improved focus. As a result, you will then be able to comprehend and retain the information you are reading much better---both in the New Year ahead AND well beyond 2019.


5 Tips for Maintaining A Strong Focus While Reading by Joseph Rodrigues, Iris Reading, LLC

7 Tips To Improve Your Attention Span And Focus Instantly by CJ Goulding, Lifehack

For information about customizable focusing tools for readers of all ages, please visit: FocusandRead.com ---Tools for challenged readers of all ages!

Image courtesy of: Brennan Innovators, LLC