Why Reading to Children Is So Important

Does your child have a favorite book they like to hear? Do you enjoy sharing your favorite childhood book with your child? That’s a win-win! Reading to children is important for many reasons including cognitive benefits, stronger social, emotional and character development, decreased levels of aggression, and stronger vocabulary. It strengthens your relationship with your kids and—best of all, helps kids develop a lifelong love of reading.

At just several months of age, an infant can listen to your voice, look at pictures and point to objects on pages. Children learn to love the sound of language before they even notice words on a page. Reading to children stimulates their imagination and expands their understanding of the world. It helps them develop language and listening skills and prepares them to understand written words.

Supported Cognitive Development

Reading to a child has been proven to improve cognitive skills and aid in cognitive development. Cognitive development is the emergence of the ability to understand and think, the construction of thought processes, including remembering, problem solving and decision-making, from childhood through adulthood. How a person perceives his world through areas such as information processing, reasoning, language development, attention span and memory are parts of cognitive development. Reading also stimulates brain cell activity. The more an adult reads to a child, the larger their vocabularies grow, and the more they understand about the world around them.

Better Language Skills

Reading exposes children to new speech patterns and vocabularies. They learn to absorb information on how to form a sentence and use words effectively, helping them develop better communication skills. Reading stimulates the part of the brain that allows children to understand the meaning of language and helps build key language, literacy, and social skills. This is especially important when you consider that, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than one in three children start kindergarten without the skills they need to learn to read. Research has shown that kindergarten children who were read to at least three times a week had a significantly greater phonemic awareness than did children who were read to less often.

Prepare for Academic Success

By helping children to grow their vocabulary skills with exposure to new words and listening skills, they are better positioned for academic success. Studies show that students exposed to reading before preschool are more likely to do better when their reach their period of formal education. By jumpstarting a child’s reading success, they experience stronger growth in the following areas:

phonemic awareness: being able to hear, identify and play with individual sounds

phonics: being able to connect letters of written language with sounds of spoken language

vocabulary: words needed to communicate effectively

reading comprehension: being able to understand what has been read

fluency (oral reading): ability to read text accurately and quickly

Reading Helps Children with Special Needs

For children with special needs, looking at faces and body language in a story helps them learn about nonverbal cures of communication. More than just being able to read or write, literacy is a key component of learning, development, communication, and a richer life. It’s not only about being understood, but also about being able to comprehend your world. Developmental delays can affect a child’s motors skills, social-emotional development, daily skills, and cognitive abilities. Reading can augment other learning styles—visual, auditory, tactile, and more. A child can look at an apple, bite it, do an apple puzzle, and read about apples. Looking at picture books can enhance a child’s ability to recognize pictures and what is happening in them, to generalize into his environment.

Literacy helps a child learn about herself and her feelings. When a child is stressed or had an afternoon meltdown but can’t tell you how he’s feeling, reading can often be a comfort. For example, a fun rhyming book about emotions, ending with “how do you feel today?” can offer a child a way to share feelings they might not be able to express otherwise, by allowing them to point to a picture in the book relating to their emotions.

Special Bonding with Your Child

One of the most important things you can do to positively influence a child’s development is spend time with them. Reading to your child provides a wonderful opportunity to have a regular, shared event where you look forward to spending time together. Reading provides invaluable nurturing and reassurance to a child, even as a baby. Young babies love to hear familiar voices and reading is a perfect way to foster this connection. A strong parent/caregiver-child relationship can develop from a child knowing you’ll read together at a predictable, scheduled time that fits into daily routines. Reading aloud together gives you and your child something to talk about, which can also be used to discuss real-life experiences.

Increase Concentration and Improved Creativity

According to earlymoments.com, along with reading comprehension comes a stronger, self-discipline, longer attention spans and better memory retention. Additionally, reading can open doors to new worlds for your child as they use their imaginations to explore people, places, and events beyond their own experiences, shared with them through reading aloud.


Take a look at this comprehensive list of 100 Books Every Child Should Hear Before Kindergarten. https://files.constantcontact.com/de0ceffa301/83882bd3-3d51-4f8c-a258-132be9314128.pdf

PBS Kids Read! https://www.pbs.org/parents/read

Life is hectic and parents/caregivers are busy. Taking the time to read with your child on a regular basis sends an important message that reading is worthwhile. Go to the bookstore together and let your child select a new book. Go to the library and borrow several books by different authors. Get excited! Help your child grow into an adult who reads easily and frequently whether for business, knowledge or pleasure.






It’s Our Outdoor Play and Safety Issue!

School is over and summer vacation is upon us. Time for…indoor screen time? That doesn’t sound right. But for many children, sitting in front of screens will be their primary summer activity. Children should be active for at least an hour every day, but on average, children spend four to seven minutes daily in unstructured outdoor play, compared to seven or more hours in front of a screen. Like everything, there is a time and place when some screen time is not a bad thing.

But—it’s summer! Sunshine! Fresh air! Playgrounds! Beaches! There are many reasons children need to play outside including physical, social and emotional factors. It’s fun, it’s healthy and it’s important.

Below are some benefits children experience from playing outside:

Practice Emerging Skills
Outdoors is the best place for young children to practice and master developing physical skills. While outdoors, children can practice motor skills such as running, jumping and leaping. For children with special needs, outdoor play can improve flexibility, muscle strength and coordination. Children can perform manipulative skills such as pushing a swing, pulling a wagon and carrying moveable objects. Being outside also helps children to improve body awareness, balance and motor skills.

Health Benefits
Sun exposure helps our bodies produce vitamin D, which plays a critical role in body processes including bone development. Immune systems get a boost as well from time spent in sunshine. Playing outdoors helps children get exercise and burn calories, which may help counter risk factors for obesity, hypertension and arteriosclerosis (which can show as early as age 5). Outdoor light also stimulates the pineal gland, the part of the brain that regulates the ‘biological clock’ which is critical for the immune system.

Cognitive and Social/Emotional Development
Unstructured outdoor play is the best way children learn to take turns and share. As they invent and play games, they improve communication, cooperation and organizational skills. The best way for children to learn how to plan, troubleshoot and multitask is though playing with other children. When they make up their own games, figure things out and amuse themselves, these important life skills are learned and practiced. When outdoor play is used as a teaching skill, children with communication challenges, problems with social skills, and sensory issues can reap many benefits.

Physical Benefits
For children with special needs, outdoor play provides a boost in self-confidence. As they overcome obstacles and improve physical skills, their self-esteem increases as well. When they experience personal satisfaction and accomplishment, that increase in confidence carries over into other areas of their lives. Physical play also helps reduce stress, which contributes to depression and anxiety.

Social Benefits
Children need to learn how to work together. Children with special needs often have problems with social skills, but outdoor play provides some additional social benefits. Behavior may improve and make it easier for these children to build friendships. They learn how to share, how to deal with conflict and how to work in groups, all while having fun in an outdoor, low-stress environment.

Appreciation for Nature/Sensory Skills Development
Aesthetic Awareness refers to a heightened sensitivity to beauty in the world around us. Outdoors is full of beautiful sights, sounds, smells and textures, all to be experienced through all senses. Seeing animals and birds, hearing wind moving through leaves, smelling fragrant flowers and earth, touching grass and trees, and even tasting a raindrop all provide opportunities for children to appreciate the world around them. Playing on screens uses only two senses—hearing and sight—which can negatively affect children’s perceptual abilities.

While free play is important and beneficial, planning or creating specific activities has much value too. Here are some fun ideas for outdoor time:

 -Nature walk: ask children to tell you what they are seeing, smelling and hearing; touch a rock or a leaf

-Obstacle course: set one up in your yard using old tires, cardboard boxes and more

-“Listening” walk: walk with your children and point out as many sounds as you can; bring along a tape recorder (or record on your phone) so they can identify sounds at a later time

-Parachute or sheet time: bring a parachute or old sheet outside and play games with it (shaking it, circling with it, bouncing foam balls on it)

-Music: bring music outside and dance with your kids in a natural environment

-“Water painting”: have children paint the side of building or wood fence with a brush and a bucket of water; get exercise while teaching about wet and dry, light and dark and evaporation

-Bubbles: chasing bubbles gives kids another chance to run

-Outdoor sensory table: create a toy car wash

-Swings: many local parks have adaptive swings for children with special needs

-Chalk: for children who love to color, outdoor chalk is a fun way to color; large chalk is good for children who have difficulty grasping

-Biking: even if your child cannot ride a bike, a tandem bike or bike with car seat or trailer is a great way to experience the outdoors

-Sandbox: like a large sensory bin, in this you can make castles, mud pies and more

-Picnic: have your child help prepare and pack the food; spread a blanket in the backyard and have fun

-Quiet time: even reading a book or napping can be enjoyed outside

-Playgrounds: these are a great place for kids to work on balance, motor planning, confidence and social skills

-Water (rain) therapy: for a wonderful sensory integration experience, let your children play outside in the rain—in clothes or swimsuits, with or without an umbrella; give them buckets to collect water and brooms to slosh it up with


With lots of outdoor play ahead, it’s also important to be safe. We’ve incorporated our list of safety tips, which includes information on topics such as sunscreen, dry drowning and more. With a summer full of beach and pool visits as well as time spent on the playground in the heat, we’ve put together a list of summer safety tips to be sure you enjoy the season safely. These tips apply to both children and adults; no one can have a good time if they’re sunburned or injured.

1.Lather on the sunscreen
Sunscreen should be applied right after children are up and dressed. Since sunscreen takes at least 15 minutes to get absorbed and start protecting you, if you wait until your children (and you!) are already in the sun, you’re behind the eight ball. Remember to re-apply after swimming and throughout the day, even if it’s cloudy out. UV rays can penetrate through fog and haze. If your child is going to camp, be sure to pack extra sunscreen (spray sunscreen is easier for little hands to use) and show your child how to use it. And be sure to use enough. Most of us don’t; a good rule of thumb is we need about a shot-glass full to protect our whole body. Less is definitely not more here.

2.Drink that water!
The importance of drinking fluids (preferably water) cannot be overstated. During warm weather, and especially when we sweat, our bodies lose fluid rapidly. Children often can’t tell if they need water, and by the time they are thirsty they are likely already a bit dehydrated. Teach them the importance of drinking fluids and be sure they take adequate breaks during outdoor activities.

3.Watch for heat illness
When our body is exposed to more heat than it can handle, several heat related illnesses may occur. Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are two such illnesses, and both can be very dangerous especially in infants and young children. For heat-related illness, the best defense is prevention:

-Never leave infants, children or pets in a parked car—ever

-Dress infants and children in loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing

-Schedule outdoor activities carefully, for morning and evening hours (avoiding heat of day)

-Stay cool with cool showers or baths

-Seek medical attention immediately if someone you know has symptoms of heat illness

When we lose excessive amounts of salt and water and the result can be heat exhaustion. Symptoms include severe thirst, fatigue, headaches, nausea, vomiting and sometimes, diarrhea. Other symptoms include profuse sweating, clammy/pale skin, dizziness, rapid pulse and slightly elevated temperature. Anyone experiencing heat exhaustion should be moved to a shaded or air-conditioned area, given water or other cool (non-alcoholic) beverages, and apply wet towels or take a cool shower.

Heat exhaustion can turn into heatstroke if not treated. When our body is having difficulty sweating and our temperature rises quickly, you may experience heatstroke. This happens when our body cannot get rid of excess heat. Having very hot skin and being confused are two symptoms. Getting rid of excess body heat is critical. Call for emergency help immediately. The person should be moved into the shade into a half-sitting position. Spray the victim with water and fan them vigorously; if humidity is higher than 75%, apply ice to their neck, armpits or groin.

4.Be safe in the water
According to Injury Facts 2017 (nsc.org), an average of nine people die from drowning in the U.S. every day. Drowning is a concern for young children, and teens and young adults too. Some basic water safety precautions for young children include:
-Never leave your child alone near water; if you must leave, take your child with you

-Find age-appropriate swim lessons for your child (remember that lessons do not make a child “drown-proof”)

-Always keep your eyes on your child; never rely on a lifeguard to watch your child

-Don’t let children play near pool drains and suction fittings; hair, fingers/toes, and swimsuits can get caught and become part of the suction

-Remember that even rivers and lakes have undertows

-Always keep a first aid kit handy

-Get trained in CPR

-If a child is missing, check the water first

5.Know about dry drowning/secondary drowning
Many parents think once their children are finished swimming and away from water they can relax. Not necessarily so. There is a term that should be in every parent’s vocabulary. The following are excerpts from an article from ChildrensMD.org, by Dr. Kathleen Berchelmann explaining the term “dry drowning” and what you need to know:

“There is some debate about the definition of the term “dry drowning.” Usually this term refers to situations where some water got in a child’s lungs and the child has a severe inflammatory reaction to the water hours after the incident. This phenomenon is also called “secondary drowning” or “near drowning.” There is another phenomenon, also sometimes called “dry drowning” in which suffocation occurs but no water ever entered the lungs. In these rare situations the larynx (voice box) spasms and stays shut, causing involuntary suffocation. Sometimes this spasm is triggered by water droplets hitting the larynx, or a sudden high-speed submersion under water such as off a high-dive or a high-speed water slide. This latter form of dry drowning generally doesn’t occur when kids are simply swimming or playing in the pool.”

Symptoms and warning signs of “dry drowning”:

Coughing: Any person who has persistent coughing after playing in the water is at risk for water in their lungs. Don’t go to bed worrying; take your child in for a medical evaluation.

Water rescue: Any person who was submerged in water and came up struggling, especially if he/she had to be retrieved from the water, needs medical evaluation.

Amnesia: Any person who was unconscious underwater or has limited memory of an incident that occurred in water needs immediate medical care.

Behavior change: If your child feels sick, acts too sleepy, or has a change in mental behavior after a day at the pool, take it seriously. The worst thing that can be done with a child who may have inhaled water is to put them to bed. They need immediate medical care.

Vomiting: Vomiting after a day of swimming can be due to waterborne infectious disease but can also be a sign of severe illness due to dry drowning. This is a sign stress from the body due inflammation. While dry drowning is extremely rare, it is important to know the signs and get immediate medical attention if someone is not behaving normally after swimming.

6.Keep mosquitos and ticks away
Outside time is fun time—that is until the bugs start biting, or your find a tick on your child. Some easy precautions can keep you and your children safe this summer. Use a good bug repellant with one of these ingredients: DEET, Picaridin, IR 3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Many pediatricians advise using products that contain less than 30% of these ingredients on children. Ticks can live in backyards, as well as deep in the woods; be mindful of where you set up patios and playground equipment. Keep these areas a distance away from shrubs and bushes and consider professional tick control applied by a pest control expert. After a day outside, make it a practice to check for ticks on children, adults and pets. If you find one, use a fine-tipped tweezer to remove it. Call your doctor with any questions.

7.Have fun but be safe
Playground-related mishaps are common causes of injuries and visits to the emergency room. To keep children safe while playing outside, take adequate precautions and always have adult supervision when young children are playing outside.

Ensure that surfaces under playground equipment are safe and well-maintained. Watch young children around stairs and playground equipment. Gates on stairs can prevent a young child from falling down the stairs. Be sure children wear protective equipment for the sport of their choice and watch for signs of a concussion (including can’t recall events before or after a hit/fall; appearing confused; moves awkwardly; demonstrates behavior changes; headache/head pressure; nausea/vomiting; dizziness; sensitive to noise or light; feeling sluggish; feeling ‘off’). Symptoms usually appear shortly after an injury but can also take hours or days to show up. Consult your child’s doctor if you suspect or have been advised that your child has a concussion.


We are all looking forward to a summer full of beautiful weather with lots of fun time spent outdoors. With a little planning and precaution, you and your children will be safe and have a wonderful time! Remember, if you have an emergency or any serious concerns, contact your child’s doctor immediately.

Note: The information in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not an attempt to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Always consult your child’s pediatrician with any specific medical questions. MKSA is also available to answer questions about child development. Contact us at 516-731-5588 or www.mksallc.com.


From School to Summer Break for Students with Special Needs

Summer vacation is just around the corner, and it means different things to different families. For families of children with special needs, moving from school to summer break is one large, long transition that doesn’t always go very easily. Most children do better with routine and structure, but children with autism spectrum disorders, anxiety and ADHD are especially dependent on the predictability that school provides. Remove that “safe zone” and they are more prone to tantrums, oppositional behavior and anxiety.

For parents that are home, it can be difficult to find and stick to routines during this more relaxing time of year. With later bedtimes, random napping, and spontaneous plans, sometimes just creating some structure each day can be challenging. To be sure, there are some unexpected benefits from unstructured time as well, but finding a balance is not always easy.

Below are some ways to help kids with special needs transition to a summer schedule:

Routine – In an effort to keep a child more comfortable, where possible try to maintain the school year’s daily schedule, including meal times and bedtime. The predictability of even certain components of each day will keep your child more relaxed.

Play – While home can become a safe place, especially for children with sensory processing disorders or social difficulties, it is important that they don’t spend hours inside in front of screens. Physical activity is good for everyone, particularly for children with lots of energy to burn! Find an activity that your child enjoys such as swimming, playing tag or riding a bicycle. Exercise, including jumping and swinging boosts endorphin levels and summer vacation is a good excuse to be outdoors playing. Swings are a great form of exercise for children with special needs. Look at a hammock swing, standard belt swing or a special needs swing. Supervised time on a trampoline is also a good activity.

Sensory Space – A sensory space can help with transitions, or to allow a child to relax at certain times of the day. If you need to, schedule sensory time each day (several times if necessary). This space can include controlled lighting and sound, with comfortable beanbag chairs or crash pads. Look to include items for compression, play, movement or heavy work. Weighted items such as balls can be incorporated here as well.

Lists/Schedules – Writing children’s daily tasks and activities on a posted list can help greatly, especially for children who have difficulty with transitions. Make sure they are included in making and monitoring the list. Tasks on the list can include chores, activities, summer reading work and anything else that will happen during the day (i.e. 8AM: wake up, use bathroom, brush teeth; 9AM: breakfast; 10AM: summer reading). A list will especially help children with Sensory Processing Disorder, ADD, ADHD, Executive Functioning Disorder and those on the autism spectrum.

Planned Activities – Plan ahead whenever possible, so your child can know ahead of time that you have plans for ‘Wednesday at 11:00 AM.’ Try to also have a set daily routine, such as going to the park every afternoon.

Travel and Routines – Vacations that involve staying in hotels can be additionally challenging. When possible, explore renting a vacation apartment where mimicking home routines is easier. Consider bringing familiar snacks and picking up milk, juice and snacks once you arrive. Having some familiar routine components, even while on vacation, may be helpful.

Summer Camp – For information on finding a camp that will accommodate your child’s special needs, see our previous blog post “Things to Consider When Choosing a Summer Camp for a Child with Special Needs.”

With some research and planning, you’ll be able to set up a summer plan that will work for your child, and his/her special needs and interests. Remember that it’s equally important for parents/caregivers to take some time for themselves. If possible, book a babysitter and spend some time with friends. If that isn’t feasible, close friends with or without kids can offer support. And if a family member is available to give you a break, do so. Your well-being is important and allows you to give your best to your child. Wishing you a happy summer!


Note: The information in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not an attempt to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Always consult your child’s pediatrician with any specific medical questions. MKSA is also available to answer questions about child development. Contact us at 516-731-5588 or www.mksallc.com.


Things to Consider When Choosing a Summer Camp for a Child with Special Needs

It might be cold and dreary outside, but there’s no better time to explore summer camp for your children. It’s important to find the right setting for your child, whether it is a day camp or sleepaway camp. To find a summer camp for children with special needs, there are additional factors to consider based on your child’s skills, interests and abilities. Special Needs is a comprehensive category that includes issues such as physical-care needs and orthopedic appliances to speech delays, learning disabilities and behavioral issues. For all children that fall within the special needs category, summer camp is more complicated than just sending in a deposit.

You’ll want to start thinking early about the kinds of activities your child would benefit from, and this involves assessing your child’s needs, your options and details about each camp you are considering. Consider your child’s age, interests and personality. You’ll also want to think about how summer activities can help support your child’s year-round learning. Questions to ask yourself include:
What would your child enjoy? Does your child have a passion such as animals or music? If so, you could look for summer programs that encourage his passion, such as a music camp or zoo program.
What skills is your child working on? A child who needs help learning to read could benefit from a program that provides specialized reading tutoring. If he’s been focusing on socialization skills, a noncompetitive camp setting with lots of interaction with other children could be a good opportunity to continue learning social skills. Consider the goals he has been working toward during the school year and how he could progress over the summer.
If your child has difficulty in new or unfamiliar situations, talk with other parents in your child’s class or neighborhood to see if your children could attend a program together.
Options to consider include summer programs in your community. You can learn about these from your child’s school staff. Teachers can likely recommend programs and activities that have been accommodating and successful for children with special needs. Ask other parents as well. Some local options might be:
Local park and recreation programs. Usually half-day or all-day programs, these often cost less than other programs but may have residency requirements.
Day camps. Religious organizations, schools and Ys offer day damps. They may have limited hours but might offer extended-day coverage.
Activity programs and workshops. Organizations like libraries, museums and nature societies offer short-term workshops in a variety of areas.
Overnight camps. These may offer stays by the week, month or all summer. Many are oriented toward specific activities such as sports, nature or the arts.

Once you have found several programs that might work, some in-depth questions to ask include:
What is the program philosophy? Look for camps with clearly stated goals, that will be a good match for your child’s personality and will increase her sense of confidence and self-esteem.
How much training and experience do staff members have? Are staff members able to make needed accommodations? Can they effectively manage your child’s behavior in a way that makes you comfortable?
What is the ratio of staff members to kids? A camp with an adult-to-child ratio of 1:2 is very different than 1:10.
What kind of medical facilities or professionals are on site? Find out if a nurse is available and how medications are dispensed. Be sure the camp staff is trained to respond to medical emergencies such as seizures.
Are the facilities accessible?
How will you communicate with staff members and with your child? For day programs, ask if you will have opportunities to speak with counselors at drop-off and pick-up time. Will staff members be available by phone or email? If your child will attend an overnight camp, find out how often you will be able to speak with him.
What are the sleeping, bathing and eating arrangements? For overnight camp, you’ll want to be sure your child will be comfortable and get the help she needs to be able to fully participate in the program.
Check references and learn what other families think of the program.

According to summer365.com, a free camp advisory service, below are five main points to remember when searching for a camp for special needs children:
There is a camp out there for your child. There are specialty camps designed for nearly every disability or need, some running for a full summer or a shorter session, and some taking over another camp’s facility for a period of a few weeks at summer’s end. Mainstream camps sometimes work with specific needs as well. Susan Kasnett, Co-Founder of summer365.com says “One summer, I saw a girl in a wheelchair having a wonderful time at a traditional summer camp. Depending on your child’s needs and the camp’s capabilities, things that might not seem like an obvious fit could work.”
Ask for advice in deciding if your child is ready. Parents should speak with a child’s teachers, psychologists and anyone on their team when deciding if a child is ready for camp, especially a sleepaway experience. A good barometer is if parents feel that a child has outgrown whatever they’ve been doing in past summers, it could be time to explore new experiences. Keep in mind that it’s okay to encourage a child to move out of their comfort zone and encourage a new experience. Some children who rely deeply on routine might never openly volunteer for a change but could ultimately thrive and learn in a new environment. However, you don’t want to send a child who’s going to be anxious or miserable to the point of being unable to participate.
Interview the camp. While camps that focus on a particular disability or need tend to interview families, you need to interview the camp as well. Important questions to ask include: What is the camper-to-counselor ratio? How is staff selected and trained? Is there any therapy programming offered? Have past campers been eligible for extended school-year funding or insurance reimbursement? How does the camp handle homesickness or other needs particular to your child? Visiting a camp while it is in session is the best way to get a feel for the camp’s culture, philosophy and accommodations.
Be honest with the camp about your child. Do not play down your child’s needs; you want to make sure everyone is on the same page. If your child has behavior issues, let the camp know. If your child is physically independent at the beginning of the day, but by evening needs far more help, make the camp aware of these things.
Be honest with your child about camp. Take to him/her about homesickness and share your personal experiences with it. Let him/her know that is it natural but will pass. Being at camp can be wonderful, but going away from home can be hard, and there’s no reason to gloss over that issue with any child.

Parents must also remember that it is discriminatory for a provider to tell you that your child cannot be admitted to a program because of her disability. If your child needs one-on-one assistance at a camp but the camp cannot provide this, your insurance company or state department that oversees the welfare of children with disabilities may be able to pay for an extra teacher, aide or counselor.

As an additional resource, we’re including links to some sites that may help in the search for a summer camp:
Federation for Children with Special Needs Camp Guide:  FCSN Camp Guide 2019
Long Island camps for children with special needs: https://www.nymetroparents.com/article/summer-camps-that-offer-special-needs-programs-and-services-for-campers-on-long-island
Hofstra University REACH Program for campers with autism spectrum disorders and other special needs: https://www.hofstra.edu/academics/ce/summer-camp/specialty_reach.html
NYC camps for children with special needs: https://mommypoppins.com/newyorkcitykids/nyc-summer-camps-autistism-special-needs-aspergers-adhd-sensory

With some solid research as well as conversations with your child’s teachers and other parents, you’ll be able to find the perfect summer camp environment for your child. Before you know it, you’ll be deep in preparation for that fun time—sunscreen, bathing suits and more!

If you have any questions about your child’s development, reach out to us! You can call 516-731-5588 or reach us by email.


Note: The information in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not an attempt to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Always consult your child’s pediatrician with any specific medical questions. MKSA is also available to answer questions about child development. Contact us at 516-731-5588 or visit our website for more information..

American Camp Association acacamps.org



What to Do if Your Child Bites

Parents of toddlers are often concerned about a common occurrence—biting. You are not alone! Most toddlers and preschoolers bite at one time or another, and it is a normal developmental occurrence. Children bite for a variety of reasons. Sometimes toddlers bite due to limited language skills or ways to express their feelings. Preschoolers may occasionally bite when they are so overly tired or frustrated and have lost control. The good new is there is much that parents and caregivers can do to reduce, and ultimately eliminate biting.

Why does my child bite?
It’s important to remember that while your child may bite, try not to label him/her as a “biter.” Labeling a child can often result in the child assuming the identity assigned to them, which would increase biting behavior.

Some reasons toddlers may bite include:
-they lack language skills necessary for expressing important needs or strong feelings such as happiness, anger or frustration. Without words to express feelings, biting can serve as a substitute (“I am very mad at you!”, “You are standing too close to me,” or “I am so excited!”)

-they are overtired

-they are teething

-they are overwhelmed by sounds, lights, or activity in a setting

-they need more active playtime

-they have a need for oral stimulation

-they are overwhelmed after intense play such as wrestling or tickling for an extended time

-they need more time to move from one activity to another

What are some solutions for biting?
Frustration/stress: watch for signs of increasing frustration; teach your child ways to show feelings appropriately and offer praise when he/she communicates appropriately

Teething: offer your child a teething biscuit, rubber teething ring or a partially frozen clean washcloth

Defense/Territorial: let your child know he/she is safe; ensure the area is not crowded, with plenty of space and toys

Attention-seeking: give your child attention when he/she is not biting, to make him/her less likely to bit for attention

Power/aggression: explain acceptable ways to interact with others; encourage positive behavior such as sharing and taking turns

How to discourage biting.
If you see your child on the verge of biting, there are strategies you can use to prevent biting:

  1. Distract your child with a book or toy. Shift your child’s attention to reduce the tension.
  2. Explain how your child can handle a situation that could lead to biting. You can say, “Johnny, it’s okay to tell Mary: ‘You are too close to me. I don’t like it when you touch my hair.’”
  3. Be sure there is ample space, equipment and toys to keep all children occupied and to minimize having to wait turns.
  4. Avoid overstimulation for a child who becomes easily frustrated. Keep groups small and make play periods shorter with less challenging activities.
  5. Teach cooperation throughout the day, demonstrating words and phrases children can use to express their desires and feelings. Praise cooperative behavior.
  6. Familiarize yourself with the child’s signals of rising frustration or anger.
  7. Teach children to share; this is a common trigger for biting. Use a kitchen timer to provide a visual reminder of how long they can play with a certain toy. In a classroom setting, be sure there is more than one of popular toys.
  8. Read books about biting. Ask your child how the characters might be feeling, and ask him/her what is happening in the pictures.

Some suggested books include:

-Teeth Are Not For Biting by Elizabeth Verdick

-No Biting by Karen Katz

-No Biting, Louise by Margie Palatini

What to do when your child bites
When a child bites, adults must intervene quickly, firmly and calmly. A child usually bites because he is out of control, which can be frightening to him. Parents and caregivers help a child the most by staying in control themselves. Reassure both the child who bit, as well as the victim. If possible, keep both children by your side as you inspect and wash the bitten area with warm, soapy water. By doing so, you demonstrate the consequences and seriousness of the behavior.

Young children may not understand that biting hurts. Make sure children understand that biting cannot be allowed and that you will stop it every time. A child who is out of control and frightened by his own behavior needs to know that adults will help take control until he/she is able to control himself.

In addition, many times when a child bites, adults pay much attention to him/her. Though it’s usually negative attention, it can still reinforce the behavior and cause it to continue rather than stop. When parents shift their attention to the child who was bitten, they communicate that biting will not result in more attention. Showing concern for the child who was bitten also teaches empathy.

When help is needed
Biting usually stops by age 3-1/2. If biting continues or increases in frequency, speak with your child’s pediatrician about the possibility of an assessment from a child development specialist.

We are available if you have any questions about your child’s development or behavior. We can be reached at 516-731-5588.


Some information shared courtesy of Children’s Home Society of California, www.chs-ca.org and www.zerotothree.org .

Be Sure Your Kids Are Playing!

“Just go play!” “Why don’t you play with your toys?” “Let the baby just play with a toy for a while.” If you’ve ever said any of these things, good for you! From the time a child is born, throughout his/her childhood, play is an important—and necessary—component of development. We’ve put together some play pointers to further elaborate on the ages and stages of play and why it is so important.

Why is play important?
Babies play at every stage of development. Infants learn about how the world works by looking at their own hands, grabbing rattles or hitting objects. Toddlers use play more creatively. Encouraging more complex play helps children with important thinking skills and with the social understanding of what they can do and how competent they are.

How do babies play differently than toddlers?
As soon as babies can grasp with their hands, they explore toys by putting them into their mouths. By 9 months, mouthing toys is not as much fun as banging, shaking, and dumping things. By age 1, babies are putting objects into containers, and they understand that pushing a button or pulling a string can make things happen. It’s exciting to watch how an 18-month-old uses objects to act out familiar activities like eating, drinking and telephoning. By age 2, children are able to use pretend objects in place of real ones. Learning how to pretend is the beginning of dramatic play and is an important first step in learning how to play pretend games with other children.

What are the usual stages of children’s play?
Solitary play – this is the first kind of play where children play alone with their own toys or activities and do not try to make contact with nearby children. Examples include banging, shaking, filling and dumping.
Parallel play – children play independently but near each other. Examples include manipulating a doll to do common things, and doing a series of pretend activities, such as pouring and drinking pretend milk.
Associative play – children play with the same toy but not together. Examples include building separate structures with blocks or playing with play-doh without exchanging tools.
Cooperative play – Children play with the same toy together. Examples include board games or using Legos to build one structure.

What can I do to encourage play?
Babies need you to talk and sing to them and provide many kinds of toys and materials for them to explore. When the baby is tired and no longer want to play, it is time to stop. Toddlers need you to play with them in games they choose. You can help by giving suggestions; withdraw from the play when your child can handle the activities alone.

What toys and playthings are recommended?
For babies, it’s good to have toys that you and the baby can look at together. Talking about and playing with toes, fingers and body parts is just as wonderful as having rattles or soft animals to touch, chew on or shake. After the first few months of life, give toys that your child can use to make something happen, rather than just watch or listen to. A toy that pops back up when pushed over is better than a stuffed animal. For toddlers, manipulatives such as ring stackers and blocks are a great addition to cause-and-effect toys.

What is sensory exploratory play?
We all learn from our senses – from seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and touching. We also learn from the sensation of movement. Your play—and your child’s—should include all of these sensations.

How can I help my child use the senses to explore and learn?
Birth to age 1 – Hang mobiles across the crib to provide new sights. Babies enjoy sound games as they approach their first birthdays. Hide musical toys so you child can locate them.
The 1-year-old explores by touching. In a special drawer, keep objects that are safe to touch and play with, such as a wooden spoon, funnel and old pan. A flashlight is another toy for this age. Sand and water play is fun too.
The 2-year-old touches and tastes everything, so keep electrical outlets protected and cords out of reach. He is able to match textures and likes to play “name that smell” game with soap, coffee and other familiar smells.
The 3-year-old is learning more about the world. Imitation is how they act out this understanding: they “bake” mud pies, “drive” a car, and “sweep” the floor. He enjoys blowing bubbles, splashing in water, and playing in sand.
The 4-year-old loves to run and chase, and to kick a ball. He loves to pretend to be someone else and enjoys dressing up. He can roll sections of play dough and form people.
The 5-year-old can climb up steps to a slide, ride a bicycle and use a monkey bar. He can learn to swim, skate, ski, dance and use a trampoline. He adds details to drawings, and may print his name.

Encourage play, play with your child(ren) and enjoy this very special part of childhood development!

If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s development, MKSA is here for you. Our caring professionals will answer your questions in confidence. You can reach us at 516-731-5588.

Positive Discipline For Behavior Problems

As a parent, you’ve no doubt dealt with a child misbehaving, being mean, having a meltdown or throwing a major tantrum. Not fun. Been there, done that, not going back? Like it or not, our children’s behavior is something we will always need to address, whether it’s a child being pleasant and kind, or being downright cruel and loud. Learning strategies and coping mechanisms can help you deal with a variety of behaviors and situations. Positive discipline is a popular and effective way to manage and promote positive behavior.

Positive discipline is a program developed by Dr. Jane Nelsen, with fundamentals of the program based on work by Alfred Adler and Rudolf Driekurs. Positive discipline is designed to teach children to become responsible, respectful community members. Important skills are taught in a way that is encouraging and respectful for both children and adults.

According to Dr. Nelsen, parenting with positive discipline means being kind and firm at the same time, which is effective long-term and helps children feel a connection—a sense of belonging and significance.

Below are answers to common questions regarding positive discipline:

What is positive discipline?
Discipline and punishment are not the same. Discipline is guidance and teaching that promotes positive behavior; punishment is a penalty imposed in reaction to unacceptable behavior. Positive discipline is a discipline model that focuses on the positive points of behavior. It is more effective than punishment because desirable behaviors that last a lifetime must come from within the child rather than be imposed by external force.

What is an example of positive discipline?
Frustrated parents often describe a child’s personality with words like rebellious, lazy and selfish. Behavior can be altered, but personality is more resistant to change. If you focus your efforts on behavior, goals are more likely to be reached. For example, don’t say, “That’s a good girl!” This sends a message that being good all the time is the goal—an impossible expectation. You can say instead, “I like the way you spoke to Grandma just now.” No amount of “good boy” or “good girl” will build a positive self-concept. Give your child specific feedback on his actual good behaviors, because his self-image is composed of his accomplishments. The most effective way to build good behavior is to shape it with praise.

What is meant by specific praise?
The more specific your praise is, the better the child will understand what he’s doing right and the more likely he will be to repeat it. To increase desirable behaviors, you must emphasize the specific behaviors that please you. One morning, for example, you notice your child has made his bed. At that moment, he’s brushing his hair. If you simply say “Looks nice,” he won’t know whether you are referring to his bed or his hair. Instead, you can say, “I really like the way you made your bed so neatly this morning. Thanks.”

How can I praise progress if I hardly notice any?
Start praising every little step toward the target behavior, making a point of catching your child at being good. For example, tell your child he must clean up his toys when he’s through playing with them, though he’s never done this before. Praise every bit of progress, however minor. Start by praising your child for picking up one toy even though he’s left three others on the floor. You might say, “It was great the way you picked up your truck and put it in the toy box. Let me help you pick up the others.”  The next time, praise him for picking up two items, and so on.

The goal of positive discipline is developing mutually respectful relationships between adults and children. Positive discipline boasts many benefits including improved classroom behavior, increased self-confidence, reduced destructive behavior, and enhanced adult-child relationships. For more resources, visit www.positivediscipline.com.

If you have any questions about your child’s development, visit www.mksallc.com or feel free to contact us at 516-731-5588 or by email at info@mksallc.com. Our dedicated professionals are happy to answer any questions you have.


Pokémon Go or Pokémon No?

In case you’ve been out of our solar system for the past few weeks, you’ve by now heard of Pokémon Go. You know, “Gotta Catch ‘Em All.” Right? But just in case you were visiting Pluto, let’s get you up to speed. Pokémon Go is a free, location-based app for Apple and Android devices. Users get up and out (yes–outside! while gaming!) and through augmented reality, try to catch Pokémon cartoon characters on their smartphone screens. Augmented reality is a live view of the world that is enhanced by computer-generated input such as images, sound, video or GPS information. Meaning, you use the app on the phone to play a game that essentially superimposes Pokémon characters on the screen as if they were actually appearing in real life. The goal of the game is to catch as many characters as possible and advance through the game. Three days after its release, the app had more users than Twitter. The app set new download records and sent stock prices soaring for game creators Nintendo, Google-spinoff Niantic, and Pokemon Company. The app got users playing the game to leave their house, be outside, and interact with other users. With the good, comes the bad and most certainly some ugly.

The Good

Kids (and adults as well) are getting outside! You’ve got to walk and travel to collect Pokémon. There are PokeStops, which are predesignated places (often community landmarks) where certain items are collected which help you in your quest to catch more characters. And you must keep moving and traveling to find characters, and reach PokeStops. So it’s good. People are walking. We’re talking miles and miles. And people are outdoors. We’re talking grass and sky and sun. And one of the seemingly unforeseen effects of this game is its positive impact on individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). For those with ASD, social interactions are often awkward and limited. However, for players with ASD, having a shared interest is making social interactions easier. Stories can be found about children with ASD suddenly seeking changes in their routines. Some children who rarely leave their usual environment are asking to go, for example, to the park in the evening. Others, for whom eye contact and interaction are very limited are high-fiving other players. So yes, some good.

The Bad

The first seemingly obvious bad is the ability of users to so fully immerse themselves in the game that despite onscreen warnings to be alert to your environment, they forget to look up from their screens. Stories abound of players crossing streets, riding bikes, skateboarding, and yes—even driving—while playing the game. Is it really necessary to say don’t do those things while looking down at a screen? Players are also trespassing on private property and venturing into known risky areas all to catch a rare Pokémon. Common sense must not be abandoned! You can be smart and cautious and still have fun.

The Ugly

The ugly is bad on steroids. Stories have surfaced of players finding a dead body while searching for a Pokémon. There are also claims of players walking off cliffs. Other stories state players were “lured” (yes there are lures that can be purchased to encourage players to visit a particular area to find Pokémon) only to find trouble. Business owners can purchase these ‘Lure Modules’ and encourage customers to visit while catching Pokémon, but of course ugly can always rear its head. So be smart!

In all, there is hope that good will conquer the bad and ugly. And this is just the tip of the augmented reality gaming iceberg. Getting exercise, being outdoors, interacting with others and having fun are encouraging in this day of excess screen usage. Still looking at a screen, for sure—but, baby steps, right? And watch where you walk.