Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The S.T.O.P. Mindfulness Exercise {Free Printable Cards & Poster Included!}

Looking for mindfulness exercises for anxiety or for kids? Then you'll want to try this STOP mindfulness technique. Be sure to grab the free printable mindfulness cards and poster too!

When it comes to raising an anxious child, one of my main goals is to make sure he has lots of strategies in his coping skills toolbox that he can pick from, whether that's chewing on a chew necklace, doing some meditation after supper, or practicing some deep breathing.

Lately that includes teaching my kids - and myself - a variety of mindfulness techniques and exercises.

One technique that we have found helpful so far is the STOP mindfulness exercise. It's a simple exercise for anxiety that kids and adults alike can use when things get a bit overwhelming.

STOP mindfulness acronym - what is this mindfulness technique for anxiety about?

STOP Mindfulness Acronym: What does it mean? And How Can You Use this Mindfulness Exercise for Anxiety?

When you or your child are feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or stressed and need to calm down (before it turns into a full blown meltdown), you'll want to keep the acronym S.T.O.P. in mind.

It's a quick and easy mindfulness practice that you can do anywhere and at anytime.

This exercise doesn't require anything fancy. Although I have included some printable cue cards to help guide you through the technique and help support visual learners like my son.

In terms of mindfulness, S.T.O.P. stands for:

S = STOP

Stop whatever it is you are doing. This might involve looking away, closing your eyes, and/or putting things down for a minute. It's like hitting the pause button on the TV remote.

T = TAKE

Take a few deep breaths to help center yourself. You can use one of these deep breathing techniques to help you focus on the present moment. Be sure to really focus on how your breathing feels and how it comes in and out.

O = OBSERVE

Observe what is going on around you and inside you. Notice what you are experiencing in terms of thoughts, feelings, and emotions at this moment.

  • What emotions are present?
  • How are those emotions presenting themselves in your body?
  • Can you name the emotions?
This step is all about connecting with your body, emotions, and mind to take note of what's going on with each. You could also try one of these grounding techniques to help you observe what's happening.

P = PROCEED

Proceed or carry on with whatever it was you were doing before you started this mindfulness exercise. Or, maybe after reflecting on what you learned during the observation step, you decide that you might need to change course completely. And that's perfectly okay. You can use this step to proceed with a coping strategy or aim for a little self-care instead. Do whatever you need to do to feel supported in this moment.

Free printable mindfulness cards and poster to teach the S.T.O.P. mindfulness exercise

About the Free Printable S.T.O.P. Mindfulness Technique Cards & Poster

This three page printable includes two sets of cards and one poster that outlines the STOP mindfulness technique. The first set of cards is more detailed than the second set as I wanted to have some cards that were simpler and less busy for smaller kids.

Simply print, cut, and laminate the cards and place it on a small binder ring. Then you can take it on the go, place it in a calm down kit, or have available to your child at school. Or adults might find it helpful to keep at their desk at work.

The poster would be a great addition to a classroom or a calm down corner.

To get your copy of the printable, simply click the link below.

>> CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE FREE PRINTABLE

Or subscribe to the Weekly Autism Planner newsletter to gain access to hundreds of printables in the subscriber library!

Other Mindfulness Techniques & Resources You'll Love

Simple Mindfulness Activities You Can Start Today!

5 Senses Grounding Technique with Free Printable Cards

Alphabet Grounding Technique with Free Printable

Looking for mindfulness exercises for anxiety or for kids? Try this STOP mindfulness technique and grab the free printable mindfulness cards and poster
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Monday, September 16, 2019

IEP Team Members & Their Roles: Who Attends an IEP Meeting?

All about the IEP team, including answers to the question who attends an IEP meeting? You'll learn who makes up the IEP team and the roles of these members in the IEP process.

The other day a local mom asked me what was involved in an IEP meeting (or specifically an IIP meeting where we live) since her autistic child just started school and the whole process is completely new to her.

I, too, was once in her shoes and had no idea what these meetings would involve.

And I'm guessing if you're reading this, you're in the same boat too.

I know it can be completely overwhelming to learn all about this stuff on the fly...so how about we just take a closer look at who attends an IEP meeting? You know, dig deeper into who makes up the IEP team for your child.

I'll also share some useful resources to help you fully under the roles of the IEP team members and, if you're a local parent here in Saskatchewan, there are a couple of useful PDFs specifically for you too.

IEP team members and their roles

The IEP Team: Who Attends an IEP Meeting?

In short, the IEP team members include you (the parents), your child's teacher, the special education teacher, your child (when appropriate), and other professionals or specialists that make sense.

This collective group of individuals who attend the IEP meetings is called the IEP team.

While the IEP team will vary from child to child in terms of size and composition, they will always be made up of the following group of individuals, as outlined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act:

  • Parents
  • At least one of your child's general classroom teacher(s)
  • At least one special education teacher
  • A representative of the school system (this may be the special education teacher)
  • Relevant professional(s) or specialist(s) who can interpret evaluation results (this may be the special education teacher)
  • Other specialists or advocates who have knowledge or special expertise about the child
  • When appropriate, the child

We Don't Have IEPs Here - We Have IIPs Instead

Where I live (Saskatchewan, Canada), we have what's called an IIP instead of an IEP. The IIP acronym stands for Inclusion and Intervention Plan.

Despite the slightly different name and acronym, the composition of our team is basically the same as what's outlined in the IDEA act. Our team members have always included us (the parents), my son's general classroom teacher, and the French Immersion resource room teacher (resource room = special education).

Occasionally, the school principal has joined meetings, but usually it's only when the principal is new to our school. And we've had a few different principals and resource teachers over the years...

At this point, my son hasn't been included in the IIP meetings, but as he gets older, he will certainly be involved. And we always discuss the goals with him even if he isn't included in the actual meeting itself.

It's Important to Know Your Local IEP/IIP Guidelines

I highly recommend learning about your local equivalents to IIPs or IEPs and the guidelines set forth by your local ministry of education. It's important to be fully aware of the program, how it works, who should be involved, your child's rights, etc. Here are a couple of resources for my fellow Saskatchewan families:


IEP Team Members & Their Roles

Now that you know who should attend an IEP meeting, it's best to learn what their roles will be in the IEP process. Now since I'm no expert on IEPs, I have instead included some resources that go deeper into this topic. These resources will help you better understand the roles of the IEP team members.

  • The IEP Team Members from Reading Rockets - If you want to go into depth about the roles of each team member, this is a great article.

Other IEP Resources You'll Love

Free IEP Resources for Parents

School Advocacy Tips

Hyperlexia Classroom Accomodations

All about IEP team members and who can attend IEP meetings and the roles of those team members
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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Free Printable Worry Time Door Hangers

Printable door hangers for anxious kids to put around their doorknobs when it's worry time.

Implementing the worry time technique with kids at home can be challenging when you have siblings who simply want to help. But it's important to minimize distractions and interruptions during worry time in order for it to be effective.

These free printable door hangers for kids are a helpful way to keep distractions to a minimum so that your anxious child can have that uninterrupted worry time each day.

Simply pop the hanger onto the doorknob as a way to let siblings know it's not time to play right now.

Free printable doorknob hangers template for kids to use during the worry time technique

What is Worry Time Exactly?

Not familiar with the worry time technique yet? Well, it's a simply strategy that teaches your kids how to be in control of their anxiety. I've already written about it in detail and you can learn more about worry time here.

About the Free Printable Worry Time Door Hangers for Anxious Kids

This two page printable features two reversible door hangers (one that is pink with a girl and one that is blue with a boy). Stereotypical colors, I know, but it's the best clipart that I could find for this purpose. You could also just use this printable as a template or print it in black and white if you want to avoid the stereotypical colors.

Simply print the page that you want to use, laminate, and cut.

Then when it's worry time, your child can let everyone else in the house know by flipping it to the side with the child that says, "It is my worry time," and hanging it on their doorknob or door handle while the door is closed. And when worry time is over, they can flip it over to the other side, letting everyone else know it's okay to come in and play.

It is my hope that this simple printable will ensure that your child's worry time is distraction free.

To get your copy of the printable, simply click the link below.

>> CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE FREE PRINTABLE

Or subscribe to the Weekly Autism Planner newsletter to gain access to hundreds of printables in the subscriber library!

Other Childhood Anxiety Resources You'll Love

10 Powerful Phrases to Teach an Anxious Child

Free Anxiety Worksheets

Resources for Parenting an Anxious Child

Free printable door hangers to use during worry time, which is a technique to help anxious kids who worry a lot
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Monday, September 09, 2019

10 Powerful Phrases to Teach an Anxious Child (That Will Help Them Shrink Their Worries)

Wondering how to calm an anxious child? Or how to help an anxious child? Teach them how to shrink their worries and anxious thoughts with one of these powerful phrases.

If you have an anxious child, then you might be all too familiar with phrases and questions like...

  • I can't do this.
  • I don't want to go outside!
  • I hate school!
  • It might rain today.
  • This is too hard!
  • Are you going to die?
  • What if X happens?
Heard any of these before?

Yep, me too.

So how do you help calm an anxious child when phrases like that are running through their minds?

Well, one thing you can do is flip the narrative by changing their mindset.

Now if you've never read the book "Mindset" by Carol S. Dweck, I highly recommend that you do. It's an important book for all parents. Actually, scratch that. Everyone should read it, not just parents. It is such a good read.

Anyway, instead of letting your child focus on these negative phrases and questions and letting their anxiety control them, it's important to empower your anxious child and give them the tools they need to a) better manage their anxiety, and b) learn to self-advocate for their own mental health.

The phrases below are so powerful.

They can help your anxious child take better control of their anxiety and remind them that, yes, they can get through it.

Powerful and helpful phrases for anxious kids who worry

How to Help Your Anxious Child: Teach Them these Powerful Phrases!

Now obviously it's important to teach your child to identify their emotions and practice different coping strategies. But it's also important to teach them how to self-advocate for themselves and their mental health. If they can successfully recognize their worrying thoughts, remember to use one of these phrases, and then use a coping strategy, they will be one step closer to managing their anxiety on their own.

1. Go away, worry!

Teaching your child how to talk back to their worries is a great anxiety strategy. They can come up with their own variation of this phrase or even name their worry so they can address it directly. Naming your child's worry monster is a great way to show them that it is separate from them. And by talking back to that worry monster or bully, kids learn that they are in control and that their anxiety is not.

2. My worry won't last forever.

This phrase reminds your child that worrying is simply a feeling that will pass eventually. Just like your child feels happy, sad, or angry, those emotions don't last forever either. An alternative phrase to use would be...

3. This feeling will pass.

Same as the above phrase.

4. I am going to take a deep breath.

A phrase like this one reminds your child to relax and use a coping strategy to help them regulate their bodies. Be sure to teach your child how to do deep breathing so they can implement those techniques after they say this phrase.

5. I'm worried/scared about            because           .

Not only does a phrase like this help your child name their emotions, but it will hopefully help you and your child figure out what the root cause of their anxious thoughts might be. It also encourages your child to dig deeper into what's really going on. This phrase might be one of the most difficult on this list for your child to use, but trust me, when they can, it's so helpful!

6. The likelihood of             happening is low or unlikely.

This phrase is all about using logic to shrink your child's worries. Sure your child might be worried that a tornado might hit, but reminding themselves about the low probability of a tornado actually happening can be quite freeing.

7. I need           .

They might fill in this blank with a request for help directly or they might specifically tell you exactly what they need right now at this moment. Maybe they need a hug. Or maybe they need to check the weather forecast. Whatever it is they need, hopefully you can teach them to verbalize it. This phrase also teaches them to reset their system and help them learn to regulate, two important strategies for managing worries.

8. This is hard.

This phrase simply helps your child acknowledge that managing their anxiety is, indeed, hard work. Your child should pair this phrase with the one below.

9. I can handle this and I can do hard things.

Here's another phrase that uses logic to tackle those worrying thoughts. It takes a growth mindset approach to handling anxiety and can be used to remind your child about past successes. Remember that book I suggested earlier called "Mindset"? This is where it comes in.

10. My parents/teacher/friend is here to help me.

A phrase like this reminds your child that they don't have to do this alone. It reminds them that it's perfectly okay to ask for help and that there are people available to support them.

Other Resources You'll Love

The Worry Time Technique for Kids

Books About Anxiety for Parents

Anxiety Resources for Parents

Powerful and helpful phrases to teach an anxious child who worries
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Friday, September 06, 2019

The Worry Time Technique for Anxious and Worried Kids

Help your anxious kids by using a designated worry time at home. You can start using this simple technique today to help your child with their worries. You'll learn what worry time is as well as the four steps of the worry time technique.

All kids worry, yes, but some kids worry more than others.

Like my son does.

He's an anxious kid and I'm guessing - since you're here and all - that your child is too.

But how do you teach them to manage their anxiety? How do you not let their worries consume them and take over their day? How do you starting helping them?

One answer is the worry time technique.

This simple strategy is effective in helping anxious kids learn how to take control of their worries and I want to show you how it works. Oh and it doesn't just work great for kids. Many adults will find this technique helpful as well.

What is worry time? All about the worry time technique for kids

What is Worry Time?

Worry time is a technique that can be used to help anxious and worried kids postpone or set aside their worries until a designated time and place.

It's a technique that was first introduced to us by a psychologist we had been seeing and she encouraged us to try implementing it with our son. And we have found it useful.

This powerful technique teaches kids to be in control of their worries.

How?

Well, by practicing setting aside their worries to another time of day, you're basically empowering kids by teaching them that they can worry about these things later.

You're not dismissing their worries by any means. You're simply just postponing them.

When you schedule worry time for your child, you're freeing them up to focus on other things or activities instead of being sucked into worrying their day away. Because, ultimately, they know that they'll have that dedicated worry time later to focus on the anxious thoughts they've had throughout the day.

How to Use the Worry Time Technique

There's four steps to doing this worry time technique:

  1. Decide on the worry time period
  2. Set aside your worries
  3. Use coping strategies and mindfulness activities to return to the present moment
  4. Use that designated worry time to discuss the worries
Let's break down these steps further, shall we?

Step #1: Decide on the Worry Time Period

The first thing you need to decide together with your child is what you feel is an acceptable amount of time to spend each day on worrying thoughts. It could be once a day, twice a day, or maybe you want to do it weekly. Only you and your child will know how much time to dedicate to worry time.

Then decide when and for how long the worry time period will be. Will it be first thing in the morning? Right after school? For 10 minutes? 20 minutes? That's up for you to decide!

Hint: don't schedule worry time right before bedtime. That's just asking for trouble! It will make it extremely difficult for your child to slow down, relax, and fall asleep. And I'm sure the last thing you want to do is impact your anxious child's sleep...We all know a good night's sleep can make an impact on your child's anxiety.

Next, you need to decide where worry time will take place. Similar to setting up a calm down corner for kids, you'll want the space to be comfortable and with minimal distractions. Make sure everyone else in the family is aware that it's worry time and not to disturb your child during this time. Or use these free printable worry time door hangers to let the rest of the family know it's worry time.

You'll also want to decide on who will be involved in the worry time period. If your child is quite young, then you'll likely want the worry time period to involve just you and your child. However, if your child is older, then they might prefer to do their worry time alone.

Step #2: Set Aside Your Worries

This step is all about noticing your worry, making note of it, and setting it aside. Or, as a parent, this step is about pointing our your child's worrying thoughts and reminding them that they'll need to wait until it's worry time to discuss it.

When you or your child becomes aware of the worry or anxious thought, they should write it down or make a mental note of it.

For example, you could use a worry box. Our son's psychologist helped him create an imaginary worry box in his mind that he could lock up those worries in until it was worry time. He even drew a very detailed picture of it, complete with half a dozen locks or so on it. Then when it was worry time, he could unlock that worry box and then proceed to work through the worries he set aside in there.

However, if you want to use more physical, tangible ideas, then you could try to:

  • Write down your worries on slips of paper and put them inside a real, physical worry box (you could even have your child decorate the box)
  • Carry around a journal and write down your worries as they come up
  • Fill in this worries worksheet throughout the day
  • Write down your worries on this printable worry jar (or create a physical jar to add slips of paper to)
It doesn't matter which method you end up using. The goal is just to help your child postpone their worries until later.

You can also teach your child a phrase like, "I will write this worry down and talk about it later during worry time."

Step #3: Use Coping Strategies & Mindfulness Activities to Return to the Present Moment

Once a worrying thought has entered your child's mind, it can be difficult for them to move away from the worry. That's why it's important to teach your child different coping skills and mindfulness strategies.

After your child has made note of their worry and set it aside, they may need help self-regulating and that's totally okay. They just had an anxious thought after all!

So this stage of the worry time technique is all about dong something to calm your child's body, cope with the anxiety, and refocus on the present moment. Here are some ideas to help your child with this step:

You may need to remind your child to actually use one of these coping strategies to help them refocus.

Step #4: Use that Designated Worry Time to Discuss the Worries

Now it's actually time to implement worry time and worry away!

The goal of this step is to let your child talk about their worries from the day. They might find it helpful to reference what's in their worry box, worry journal, or whatever strategy it is they picked for step two. All that matters is that they're thinking about and talking about any and all worries.

You might find that by the time worry time rolls around, your child is no longer bothered by a particular worry they had earlier in the day. And that's totally fine. They can simply discard those worries now.

The most important thing to note about this step is that you aren't allowed to spend more time than is specified for worry time. So if you agreed upon 10 minutes, then you must only spend 10 minutes. And once time is up, it's time to stop worrying and move on.

Then your child can empty their worry box, wipe their worry jar clean, crumple up the pieces of paper they wrote on, or similar as a way to help them finally let those worries go.


So Let's Recap that Worry Time Technique

Phew, that was a lot of information, wasn't it? So here's a quick recap of what you learned:

  1. Decide on the worry time period (e.g., 20 minutes every day before supper in your child's bedroom)
  2. Set aside your worries (e.g., lock them up into a worry box or write them down in a worry journal)
  3. Use coping strategies and mindfulness activities to return to the present moment (e.g., take some deep breaths and use a calm down jar to refocus on the here and now)
  4. Use that designated worry time to discuss the worries (e.g., talk about the worries you had and then let those worries go during that daily worry time before supper)
Now go forth and start implementing!

Other Anxiety Resources You'll Love

Anxiety Books for Parents

Free Anxiety Worksheets

Free Calm Down Cards for Kids

Worry time technique for kids - a simple way to help an anxious kid who worries
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Thursday, September 05, 2019

How to Help an Anxious Child with Their Back to School Anxiety

Help your anxious child with their back to school anxiety or worries with these helpful tips and strategies!

The back to school season brings up a lot of emotions for both parents and kids. Happiness and excitement for some. Sadness for others.

And then anxiety for a few, like my son.

Once September approaches, the back to school worries set in and my son's anxiety kicks into high gear. He starts telling us that he doesn't want to go back to school and there are a lot of tears involved in those discussions.

But his anxiety about returning to school has definitely decreased over the past couple of years (thankfully). Amazing considering it felt like he - and I - would never survive his grade two school year. So while his back to school anxiety has lessened, it's still there and the flashbacks to that year still occur.

So how exactly do you help an anxious child manage their back to school anxiety?

Tips for helping with back to school worries

How to Help Your Child with Back to School Worries

There are lots of different ways you can help your child work through their worries. And I'm going to show you my favorite ways to do just that.

Yes, these are the methods and ideas that we do ourselves. The strategies that worked really well for us. The strategies that we still implement today to help him manage his anxiety about other things, namely his anxiety about weather.

It's all about connecting, validating, and teaching. And I'm going to show you how over on CBC Parents.


Tips for helping with back to school anxiety
Read More

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Simple Fine Motor Math Activity

Looking for fine motor math or number activities for toddlers and preschoolers? Try this super simple counting tray idea!

Of all the toys that I have made for the boys, these jumbo foam numbers have probably been the most popular. They have been great for lots of math activities in the past, but this particular fine motor math tray was inspired by my then preschooler's love for clothespins. 

This math activity for toddlers and preschool aged kids is a great way to work on fine motor skills while practicing number recognition and counting.

Math activity for toddlers or preschoolers

A Simple Math Activity for Toddlers & Preschoolers that Develops Fine Motor Skills Too!

This math tray required no prep (unless of course you have to make the foam numbers first, which I didn't). I simply grabbed our homemade foam numbers and some wooden clothespins and placed it on a tray. Boom, instant math tray!

The task is quite simple too. Simply clip on the correct number of clothespins onto the foam numbers. Clip and count. Easy, peasy!

Fine motor math and counting tray for toddlers and preschoolers from And Next Comes L

Fine motor counting for toddlers and preschoolers using clothespins from And Next Comes L

Need Math Ideas for Toddlers or Preschool Aged Kids? Try this!

This math tray was the perfect activity for my youngest when he was three years old. He had been a pro-star at counting for a long time, just like his older brother, but he loved the added challenge of using clothespins. Opening and closing those clothespins is quite the fine motor workout!

Counting clothespins: fine motor math tray for toddlers and preschoolers from And Next Comes L

Counting clothespins: fine motor math tray for toddlers and preschoolers from And Next Comes L

Counting clothespins: fine motor math tray for toddlers and preschoolers from And Next Comes L

Other Ideas You'll Love




Want more more fine motor fun? Be sure to check out these other Fine Motor Fridays posts:

Fine Motor Pumpkin Patch from House of Burke
Salt Painting from Powerful Mothering
Googly Eye Pumpkins from Craftulate
Lion's Mane Cutting Activity from School Time Snippets
Spidery Fine Motor Activities from Little Bins for Little Hands
Jack-O-Lantern Geoboard from Still Playing School
Fall Leaf Color Sort Felt Mat from Stir the Wonder


Fine motor math and counting activity for toddlers and preschool aged kids
Read More