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Exhibits Around Town

Compiled by Michelle Talsma Everson   It’s already half way through summer, which means many of us are looking for new and exciting things to do before the kids go back to school—indoors of course! Luckily, the Valley is home to a variety of family-friendly exhibits of all stripes; from science to art to sea creatures, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading for a fantastic round up of kid-friendly exhibits and start exploring today!   The World of Giant Insects Arizona Science Center’s latest featured exhibition, The World of Giant Insects, transports you into a bug’s life getting up close and personal with interactive animatronic critters. With every aspect of the exhibition designed in collaboration alongside prominent entomologists to ensure scientific accuracy, and utilizing technology to create life-like movements and gestures, you will truly feel like you are being transported into another world. Through Sept. 5; Arizona Science Center; www.azscience.org   Recycled Orchestra One of the most popular exhibits at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) is located in the Latin America Gallery. The Recycled Orchestra display highlights the ensemble’s inspiring story and innovative instruments. In a slum town in Paraguay, families survive by collecting and reselling garbage. In 2009, ecological technician and visionary music teacher Favio Chávez gathered a small team to plunder the massive landfill of Cateura for materials and constructed an ensemble of instruments made of recyclable trash extracted from the landfill. In just a few years, their innovation and passion have led to a thriving music school and a youth orchestra that performs internationally. Ongoing; Musical Instrument Museum; www.MIM.org   The Ultimate Octonauts Experience This new...

Parents Ask: Speech Development

Q:  I can understand my 4-year-old, but most other people have trouble, including his father. Is there something wrong with him? What sounds should he be saying? What should I do? – Sidney, Glendale   People in your family should be able to understand most of what your 4-year-old says. People who do not know him should understand about half of his productions. If his dad can’t understand what he is saying, you should seek out a speech evaluation by a licensed speech-language pathologist (SLP).   Most speech problems are developmental and can be fully corrected. They result from poor auditory discrimination of individual speech sounds and/or improper motor patterning for sound production. Some speech problems are more complicated and stem from difficulty learning the rules for how sounds are made in English. These children usually exhibit several error sounds. Less often, speech problems result from neurological differences that interrupt the motor patterns needed for speech. No matter the cause, an SLP can show you and your child how to produce sounds correctly and establish a therapy plan to improve speech production.   A 4-year-old child should be able to say all vowel sounds, and many consonants in words, including  /b/, /p/, /m/, /n/, /t/, /d/, /k/, /g/, /s/, /z/, (sh), (ch), (j), and /l/.  If he is not yet producing /r/, /v/, or (th) accurately, look for those by the time he or she is five. While some milestones indicate not to worry about some sounds until the child is 7 years of age, those norms are based on studies that were done in the 1950s. Children today...

Childhood Mental Illness

By Janelle Westfall, LPC, BCBA, LBA   Could my child’s current difficulties be related to a possible mental health disorder? Who can I talk to about this—and why do I feel embarrassed? Many parents have these questions and they do not have to deal with these worries and concerns in isolation. There is help out there for parents and families.   You are not alone. Up to 20 percent of children and adolescents have a mental health diagnosis by the age of 18. The most prevalent diagnosis is ADHD—with approximately 7 percent of all children meeting criteria for this disorder at any given time. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): 3.5 percent of children have current diagnoses of behavior and conduct problems, 3 percent meet criteria for anxiety disorders, 2 percent are diagnosed with depression, and 1 percent are currently diagnosed with autism. One in five children will develop a mental health diagnosis.   How do you know when you should seek professional consultation? All children go through typical developmental phases. These phases include the addition of new challenging and problematic behaviors. A mental disorder though is characterized by “a serious deviation from the typical phases of development, which can be social, emotional or cognitive.” One of the biggest red flags is when you see a sudden shift or change in behavior. Warning signs may include: challenging behavior that occurs across different domains such as school and home; significant changes in sleeping and eating habits; severe mood swings that include crying, explosive anger or aggression; talk of wanting to harm self or self-harm behaviors; and intense...

Prevention for a Healthy Life

When childhood habits turn into life-threatening illnesses and how a healthier lifestyle can help By Nora Heston Tarte   In the United States, heart disease, diabetes and obesity are among the most common health concerns. According to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) 9.3 percent of Americans have diabetes, 23.5 percent of deaths in the U.S. are caused by heart disease—and both are often propelled by obesity. For many, these illnesses are preventable or can at least be kept at bay with a healthy lifestyle, however, they are often entangled and heavily affected by diet and exercise. Early intervention is key. “Although it is possible to change bad habits later on in life, it is easier to have the right start early in life and parents can make all the difference,” says Christi Christiaens, a certified clinical nutritionist at the Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center in Scottsdale. Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the U.S. and nearly half of all Americans have at least one major risk factor for heart disease—a smoking habit, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Diabetes, being overweight, poor diet and physical inactivity all increase risk. “Health outcomes in adulthood are greatly influenced by a variety of behaviors that we learn as children, and are rooted in the habits we develop in regards to physical activity and nutrition,” says Addey Rascon, diabetes prevention program director at Valley of the Sun YMCA in Phoenix. “A high likelihood that cardiovascular risk factors present in obese children will persist as they get older and further into adulthood, if unaddressed.” Being...

Make Summer Learning Fun!

By Denise Yearian Summer may be a recess from academic rigors, but it’s no time for your children to take a break from written words. Here are 10 creative ways to keep kids reading and writing throughout summer vacation.   Ignite their interest. One key to sparking children’s interests in reading is to find out what subjects and genres they enjoy. If your child likes videogames, get a book on programming. If it’s sports or mysteries, find authors who specialize in those areas. Carry this over to writing by encouraging your child to create a new sport. What would the rules be? If your child likes mysteries, suggest he write an alternative ending to a story he has just read.   A family affair. Don’t assume your kids are motivated to read by themselves. Rally their interest in reading by reading to them. Children like to hear about heroes older than they are, but those books may be above their reading level. If your child is old enough, read a few paragraphs, pages or a chapter and then have him read to you.   Box up boredom. Turn those books into box projects. After your child reads a book, encourage him to create a diorama of his favorite character’s room, home or a scene where the story takes place. He could also make an identity box filled with a characters belonging. A larger box makes a great puppet stage.   Awesome authors. Pick an author your child enjoys and have him read several of his books to compare and contrast themes and characters. Take this one step further by...

Parent’s Ask: AzMerit

Q: “I’m very concerned about my son’s AzMERIT test scores because last year he didn’t do very well. When should I expect to see the results and how concerned should I be about his scores this year?” Tina, Chandler A: Individual AzMERIT student score reports will be distributed to districts and charter schools this summer, after which they will be disseminated to parents. Many are planning to send them home with students at the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year this fall. Check with your school to find out when your son’s will arrive since each district will set the timing for providing score reports to parents. When you do receive the results, they will be provided in the same format as last year. You’ll be able to see how your child performed individually as well as compared to peers at their school and around the state. In addition to giving an overall score, the reports also break down each subject into categories to provide you with a better understanding of how your child did in math and English. Since this is the second year of AzMERIT testing, the report will also feature your child’s progress over time. When examining this year’s AzMERIT scores, the first thing that you should keep in mind is that this is only the second year of the exam. It’s quite different from AIMS and requires much more from students. It’s still new, especially for those who may have taken the paper version the first year and the computer-based test this year. There are four performance levels that describe the abilities of students who...

Fatherless Father’s Day

By Denna Babul, R.N. and Karin Luise, Ph.D. As Father’s Day is soon upon us, we often get lost in the planning and enjoyment of celebration. What some don’t realize is that 43% of children in the United States live without a father figure. So during Father’s Day prep mothers of fatherless children need to plan ahead to make sure their kids don’t feel left out. Editor’s note: While this article uses ‘she’ pronouns, these tips can apply to both daughters and sons.  Provide emotional support at her level when she appears rattled, uncooperative, disengaged or attention seeking. Although she is beginning to look like a more mature girl on the outside, her emotions on the inside can be extremely confusing. She will experience a mix of the growing need for self-expression and freedom, stirring around with child-like desires for nurturing. She may lash out and surprise you with irreverent boldness and display pulling away or disengaging. For example, instead of saying, “I am hurt, Mommy, please hug me,” she might yell that she does not need you and slam doors. Often. Since she is at a complex age, she is seeking to release her new emotions. Under it all, she is searching for safety and a way to feel better. She craves a sense of normalcy to feel like she used to and enjoy life again. Keep letting her know her importance and how much you also want things to feel happy and normal in the home. Then do what you can to facilitate that. Encourage her to spend time with trustworthy friends or mentors in order to...

Advocating Special Needs

By Judy M. Miller Parents are natural advocates for their children. We love our children and we want the best for them. As a mother of four children, three with special needs, I know how important it is to advocate for my children. There is no one who will be more committed to making sure my children have access to the support, treatment and education they are guaranteed more than me. My youngest daughter was my second child to be diagnosed with special needs (each of my kids have different special needs). I was at first overwhelmed by my lack of knowledge and intimidated by how to best advocate for what she would need in school when I did not yet know myself. I chose to dive in. Great hope impelled me. Here are some of the tips I learned on my personal journey. Accept your child’s diagnosis and become the expert about it. Gather information about your child’s special needs diagnosis, recommended remedial techniques and treatment. Learn all you can about your child’s special needs. Break the information into terms that you can understand. This will help others appreciate your child’s special needs when you share the information with them. I needed to fully comprehend my daughter’s diagnosis and the recommended care and treatments (therapies). I felt I would be a far more effective advocate for my child if my knowledge about my child’s special need bordered on encyclopedic. I fast-tracked my education. I purchased books, highlighted passages, and wrote in the margins where I required further clarification, discovered something I desired to learn more about, or wanted...

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