Explaining Death to Children

In light of some very tragic recent events, I am reminded about how difficult is for adults to attempt to explain death to children, particularly when the death is traumatic and unexpected.

Many adults find it difficult to talk about death with children and it can be tempting to shield them from pain. However, it is really important that children have a clear understanding (as far as their age allows) that the person has died. Even young children need an explanation about what has happened to their family member or friend.  It is also a natural reaction to want to spare the child from learning how the death happened by making up another explanation.  You will probably prefer that the child hear the news accurately and calmly from you rather than from rumor or through his or her imagined version of the events.

It is helpful, particularly with young children, to have a simple story that they can use to re-tell and slowly make sense of what has happened. Use words that they understand.  Always ask them what they think about what you have said to check for understanding. Young children may not need to know the exact details of the event when it first happens. It will be possible to return to this as the child’s understanding develops and they seek more information.

When telling a child about a death, it is best to use the word ‘died’ rather than words such as ‘gone to sleep’, ‘passed away’ or ‘lost’ as these can be confusing to young children. Younger children may also not understand that death is permanent – that the person can’t come back to life.

Children may raise the subject when you are least expecting it or at the least convenient time, but try to stay calm and take time to listen to what they are saying and asking. You may pick up that they want to talk by being alert to the way they express emotions or how they behave.  Children grieven differently from adults.  Don’t hestitate to read more about the topic so that you have a full understanding of what to expect.  A great resource for this is www.childrengrieve.org


This entry is adapted from content provided on www.winstonswish.org.uk


FAQ: How is a student identified and found eligible for special education services?


Step 1. Child is identified as possibly needing special education and related services.

A child is usually identified as needing special education services through one of two ways:

Child Find: The state must identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities in the state who need special education and related services. To do so, states conduct “Child Find” activities. A child may be identified by “Child Find,” and parents may be asked if the “Child Find” system can evaluate their child. Parents can also call the Child Find system and ask that their child be evaluated.   Information regarding  the NNPS Child Find program can be found here.


Referral or request for evaluation: A school professional may ask that a child be evaluated to see if he or she has a disability. Parents may also contact the child’s teacher or other school professional to ask that their child be evaluated. This request may be verbal or in writing. Parental consent is needed before the child may be evaluated. Evaluation needs to be completed within a reasonable time after the parent gives consent.

Step 2. Child is evaluated.

The evaluation must assess the child in all areas related to the child’s suspected disability. The evaluation results will be used to decide the child’s eligibility for special education and related services and to make decisions about an appropriate educational program for the child. If the parents disagree with the evaluation, they have the right to take their child for an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). They can ask that the school system pay for this IEE.

Step 3. Eligibility is decided.

A group of qualified professionals and the parents look at the child’s evaluation results. Together, they decide if the child is a “child with a disability,” as defined by IDEA. Parents may ask for a hearing to challenge the eligibility decision.

Step 4. Child is found eligible for services.

If the child is found to be a “child with a disability,” as defined by IDEA, he or she is eligible for special education and related services. Within 30 calendar days after a child is determined eligible, the IEP team must meet to write an IEP for the child.

Step 5. IEP meeting is scheduled.

  • The school system schedules and conducts the IEP meeting. School staff must:
  • contact the participants, including the parents;
  • notify parents early enough to make sure they have an opportunity to attend;
  • schedule the meeting at a time and place agreeable to parents and the school;
  • tell the parents the purpose, time, and location of the meeting;
  • tell the parents who will be attending; and
  • tell the parents that they may invite people to the meeting who have knowledge or special expertise about the child.

Step 6. IEP meeting is held and the IEP is written.

The IEP team gathers to talk about the child’s needs and write the student’s IEP. Parents and the student (when appropriate) are part of the team. If the child’s placement is decided by a different group, the parents must be part of that group as well.

Before the school system may provide special education and related services to the child for the first time, the parents must give consent. The child begins to receive services as soon as possible after the meeting.

If the parents do not agree with the IEP and placement, they may discuss their concerns with other members of the IEP team and try to work out an agreement. If they still disagree, parents can ask for mediation, or the school may offer mediation. Parents may file a complaint with the state education agency and may request a due process hearing, at which time mediation must be available.

Step 7. Services are provided.

The school makes sure that the child’s IEP is being carried out as it was written. Parents are given a copy of the IEP. Each of the child’s teachers and service providers has access to the IEP and knows his or her specific responsibilities for carrying out the IEP. This includes the accommodations, modifications, and supports that must be provided to the child, in keeping with the IEP.

Step 8. Progress is measured and reported to parents.

The child’s progress toward the annual goals is measured, as stated in the IEP. His or her parents are regularly informed of their child’s progress and whether that progress is enough for the child to achieve the goals by the end of the year. These progress reports must be given to parents at least as often as parents are informed of their non-disabled children’s progress.

Step 9. IEP is reviewed.

The child’s IEP is reviewed by the IEP team at least once a year, or more often if the parents or school ask for a review. If necessary, the IEP is revised. Parents, as team members, must be invited to attend these meetings. Parents can make suggestions for changes, can agree or disagree with the IEP goals, and agree or disagree with the placement.

If parents do not agree with the IEP and placement, they may discuss their concerns with other members of the IEP team and try to work out an agreement. There are several options, including additional testing, an independent evaluation, or asking for mediation (if available) or a due process hearing. They may also file a complaint with the state education agency.

Step 10. Child is reevaluated.

At least every three years the child must be reevaluated. This evaluation is often called a “triennial.” Its purpose is to find out if the child continues to be a “child with a disability,” as defined by IDEA, and what the child’s educational needs are. However, the child must be reevaluated more often if conditions warrant or if the child’s parent or teacher asks for a new evaluation.

Adapted From A Guide to the Individualized Education Program US Department of Education

Retention: Is It Helpful?

As parents prepare for the end of the school year and look forward to the beginning of a new year, some will get the news that their child is recommended for retention.  This is often a controversial decision and can cause emotions to flare.   In approaching retention, we must consider what is best for each individual child.  Each student is different and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to helping with difficulties in academics.  The following article is an informational article for parents, published by the National Association of School Psychologists.

Grade retention, also known as nonpromotion, flunking, failing, being held back, or the gift of time, refers to a child repeating his or her current grade level again the following year. Whether used to address low performance and/or behavior problems, research generally has not found favorable achievement or adjustment outcomes for students who are retained.
Nevertheless, retention rates have been rising. This trend appears to be heavily influenced by the recent “reform” movement emphasizing national or state-wide educational grade-level standards and accountability (the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001) and the accompanying grade-level tests to determine which students are promoted to the next grade. Whatever the reason, if retention is suggested for your child, it is vital that you as a parent make sure you know what options are available and are involved in making decisions about his or her education. By working together, parents and educators can discuss and identify specific strategies to help ensure the educational success of your child.

The Retention Dilemma
Sometimes children are recommended for retention when their academic performance is low or if they fail to meet grade-level performance standards established by the district or state. Some children may be recommended for retention if they seem socially immature, display behavior problems, or are just beginning to learn English. Occasionally, students who have missed many school daysbecause they were ill or because of frequent moves are recommended for retention. Research indicates that neither grade retention nor social promotion (the practice of promoting students with their same age-peers although they have not mastered current grade level content) is likely to enhance a child’s learning. Research and common sense both indicate that simply having a child repeat a grade is unlikely to address the problems a child is experiencing. Likewise, simply promoting a student who is experiencing academic or behavioral problems to the next grade without additional support is not likely to be an
effective solution either.

When faced with a recommendation to retain a child, the real task is not to decide to retain or not to retain but, rather, to identify specific intervention strategies to enhance the cognitive and social development of the child and promote his or her learning and success at school. Given the evidence indicating that grade retention, when compared with social promotion of similar children, is an ineffective and possibly harmful intervention, “promotion plus” (i.e., combining grade promotion and effective, evidence-based interventions) is most likely to benefit children with low achievement or behavior problems. Too often, anecdotal evidence, clinical experience, and folklore overshadow the results of empirical research. But what does research show? Is retention effective? The following information, taken from research during the last 100 years, can help parents better understand the possible effects of retention on their child and advocate for effective intervention strategies.

Effects of grade retention. The body of research on retention indicates that:

• Initial academic improvements may occur during the year the student is retained. However, many research studies show that achievement gains decline within 2–3 years of retention. This means that over time, children who were retained either do not show higher achievement, or sometimes show lower achievement than similar groups of children who were not retained. Without specific interventions, most retained students do not catch up.

• In adolescence, retained students are more likely to experience problems such as poor interactions with peers, disliking school, behavior problems, and lower self-esteem.

• Students who were retained are 5–11 times more likely to drop out of school. The probability is even higher for students who are retained more than once. Actually, grade retention is one of the most powerful predictors of high school drop out.

• For most students, grade retention had a negative impact on all areas of achievement (e.g., reading, math, and oral and written language) and social and emotional adjustment (e.g., peer relationships, self-esteem, problem behaviors, and attendance).

• A study of sixth graders’ perceptions indicated that they consider retention as one of the most stressful life events.

• Retention may help students who have missed many days of school, but only if their attendance improves and if the child will not be considerably older than the other students. At this time, however, there are no specific indicators that predict which children could benefit from retention.

Alternative strategies. However, research does provide evidence that supports the effectiveness of other educational interventions. The following are evidence-based alternatives to grade retention and social promotion that better address academic and behavior problems:

• Parental involvement in children’s schools and education through frequent contact with teachers, supervision of homework, and ongoing communication about school activities.

• Age-appropriate and culturally sensitive instructional strategies to accelerate progress in all classrooms.

• Early developmental programs and preschool programs to enhance language and social skills.

• Systematic methods to monitor progress, identify strengths and weaknesses, and identify the most effective methods of instruction.

• Early reading programs; that is, many low performing students have reading problems, and it has been found that developmentally appropriate, intensive, direct instruction strategies have been effective in promoting reading skills of at-risk students.

• School-based mental health programs to promote the social and emotional adjustment of children; for instance, addressing behavior problems has been found to be effective in improving academic performance.

• Student support teams with appropriate professionals to assess and identify specific learning or behavior problems, design interventions to address those problems, and evaluate the efficacy of those interventions.

• Behavior management and cognitive-behavior modification strategies to reduce classroom behavior problems that interfere with learning.

• Extended year, extended day, and summer school programs that focus on improving the development of academic skills.

• Tutoring and mentoring programs with peer, cross-age, or adult tutors who focus on promoting specific academic or social skills.

• Comprehensive school-wide programs to promote the social and academic skills of all students. Considering their diverse needs, there is no single intervention that will effectively address the specific needs oflow achieving students. Rather, systematic evidence-based interventions should be selected to facilitate the academic and socioemotional development of students at risk of school failure.

What Parents Can Do to Help

Parents know their children well and can provide much needed insight into their children’s learning. Therefore, it is important for parents, teachers, and other educational professionals to work together. Finding out about school problems early can help parents and teachers to collaborate to spare children the feelings of failure. Addressing problems early improves chances for success. Parents can help by:

• Discussing concerns as they arise with the teacher. It is important to know what assignments your child isexpected to do and what type of work is difficult for your child to understand and complete.

• Asking your child’s teacher what help is being provided to your child and what you can do at home to help him or her succeed.

• Helping your child with homework by asking to see his or her assignments and creating a quiet time and place tostudy.

• Making sure your child is rested and ready for school each day. It is important that your child gets plenty of sleep,eats a nutritious breakfast, comes to school on time, and receives appropriate medical care.

ADHD Series: ADHD at School

The following is a fantastic summary of the issues faced by students who have ADHD.  It was posted on www.familyeducation.com and was orginally published by the NICHCY.

In the elementary years, ADHD usually causes these problems:

  • off-task behavior,
  • incomplete or lost assignments,
  • disorganization,
  • sloppy work or messy handwriting,
  • not following directions,
  • errors in accuracy,
  • inconsistent performance,
  • disruptive behavior or spacey, daydreaming behavior, and/or
  • social interaction difficulties.

The thinking difficulties associated with AD/HD do not have to do with intellectual ability. Instead, they arise out of problems with concentration, memory, and cognitive organization. Typically, ADHD-related memory problems arise in two areas:

  • working memory-which helps the student keep one thing in mind while working on another, and
  • retrieval-being able to locate on demand information that has been learned and stored in memory.
  • Many students also show problems in:

  • time management,
  • prioritizing work,
  • reading comprehension,
  • note taking,
  • study skills, and
  • completing multi-step tasks.
  • Clearly, a student with ADHD can have difficulty in any number of academic areas and with critical academic skills. Thus, it is extremely important that the school and parents work together to design an appropriate educational program for the student.  Consider talking with your child’s teacher or the school psychologist or school social worker if you have questions or concerns about your child’s progress.

ADHD Series: ADHD at Home

Here are some things that you can do at home to help support your child with ADHD.  This article is also from www.familyeducation.com and was written by Sandra Rief.

  • Provide as much structure and predictability in the home as possible. Establish some rules, routines, and schedules to help life run smoother.
  • Plan with your child a routine/schedule (e.g., for getting ready for school in the morning, homework, mealtime, bedtime).
  • Your child needs to know what is viewed as acceptable and unacceptable behavior at home, and the consequences (positive and negative) for both.
  • Help your child to organize his room for ease in locating, using, and cleaning up his or her belongings, and for creating a sense of order.
  • Provide your child with her own space for doing homework and studying (that will be removed from noisy siblings, and other constant distractions and interference).  Design your child’s work space with easy access to necessary supplies and materials.
  • Provide well-labeled storage bins, containers, shelving, drawers, and trays.
  • Provide sufficient, uncluttered desktop space and storage space.
  • Use color strategically to organize.
  • Minimize distractions that will interfere with your child’s ability to focus and do his homework.
  • Try turning the family TV off in the house during homework hours.
  • If your child has his own phone in the room, you may need to restrict its use during homework hours. Consider an answering machine for teens.
  • Keep in mind that children with ADHD need their own space, and as much space as possible.
  • Realize that we all have our own learning styles and preferences. Some of us don’t like to work at a desk/chair, and are more comfortable and productive sitting on the carpet or propped up against a backrest — writing with paper attached to a clipboard or on a laptop desk.
  • We all need a time/place for quiet. Children with ADHD particularly need to be able to have a “quiet area” to be able to go and regroup and calm down. Try to establish some room/space in the home with quiet colors, perhaps placing an aquarium (to quietly watch the fish), and equipped with relaxing music (and earphones). Any member of the family should be able to “escape” to that quiet room when needed.
  • If possible, design an area of the house — such as the basement — with furniture (or lack of), where rambunctious behavior is tolerated.
  • Many children with ADHD are skilled at and love to construct, build things/take them apart, do arts and crafts, and other hands-on activities. These activities should be encouraged, although they can be messy. Supply the necessary materials, tools, and storage containers.
  • Many working parents with late schedules restrict their children to the house after school (as it is unsafe to let them play outside unsupervised). Children with ADHD particularly need to be able to release their energy with vigorous activity (i.e., playing outside, riding bikes, participating in organized sports). Explore ways for your child to have this opportunity, such as after-school programs at a recreation center.
For more information, visit


ADHD Series: What is ADHD?

ADHD is one of the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorders of childhood. The disorder is estimated to affect between 3 to 7 out of every 100 school-aged children [American Psychiatric Association (APA), 2000]. This makes ADHD a major health concern. The disorder does not affect only children. In many cases, problems continue through adolescence and adulthood.

The core symptoms of ADHD are developmentally inappropriate levels of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. These problems are persistent and usually cause difficulties in one or more major life areas: home, school, work, or social relationships. Clinicians base their diagnosis on the presence of the core characteristics and the problems they cause.

Not all children and youth have the same type of ADHD. Because the disorder varies among individuals, children with ADHD won’t all have the same problems. Some may be hyperactive. Others may be under-active. Some may have great problems with attention. Others may be mildly inattentive but overly impulsive. Still others may have significant problems in all three areas (attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity). Thus, there are three subtypes of ADHD:

  • Predominantly Inattentive Type
  • Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type
  • Combined Type (inattention, hyperactivity-impulsivity)
  • Of course, from time to time, practically every person can be a bit absent-minded, restless, fidgety, or impulsive. So why are these same patterns of behavior considered normal for some people and symptoms of a disorder in others? It’s partly a matter of degree. With ADHD, these behaviors occur far more than occasionally. They are the rule and not the exception.

    This article is taken from www.familyeducation.com.  It was written by Mary Fowler.

    For more great information, go to

    Holiday Stress and Children of Divorced Parents

    The holidays are a happy and exciting time for many children.   The family gatherings associated with holiday celebration may be confusing, stressful or sad for children of parents who are recently divorced.  Here is a  resource for helping support children through this difficult transition.


    Here is a resource for handling the ups and downs of holiday celebrations for all children:


    I wish you a happy and stress-free holiday season!

    Concentration Building Techniques for Home

    A recent article in the online magazine, www.empoweringparents.com, provides  several great strategies for working with kids who have attention and concentration difficulties.   The article explains that the neuroplasticity of the brain allows for the brain to grow new cells and make changes in its functioning.  Here is the list of activities that are recommended by the author, Dr. Robert Myers.

    1. The Coin Game: First, you will need a small pile of assorted coins, a cardboard sheet to cover them, and a stopwatch (or a regular watch with a second hand.) Choose five of the coins from the pile (for this example, we’ll say three pennies and two nickels) and put them into a sequence. Now, tell your child to “Look carefully at the coins arranged on the table.” Then, cover the coins with the cardboard. Start the stopwatch, and then ask them to make the same pattern using the coins from the pile. When they are finished, mark the time with the stopwatch and remove the cardboard cover. Write down the time it took them to complete the pattern and whether or not they were correct. If they didn’t complete it correctly, have them keep trying until they can do it. You can increase the difficulty of the patterns as you go, and include pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and half dollars. You’ll see your child’s concentration and sequencing improve the more they play, which is a great reward for both of you.

    2. Relaxation and Positive Imagery: Combining simple relaxation techniques such as deep breathing with positive visual imagery helps the brain to improve or learn new skills. For instance, research shows that if a person mentally practices their golf swing, the brain actually records the imaginary trials the same as if they were real trials which leads to improvement on the golf course. So kids with attention difficulties can “imagine” that they’re paying attention in class or able to handle teasing, and this can in turn change their behavior at school. You and your child can use your own creativity and give this a try.

    3. Mind – Body Integration: An example of this technique would be to have your child attempt to sit in a chair without moving. The parent times how long the child is able to accomplish this. Repeated practice over several weeks will show improvement. Through this activity, the neural connections between the brain and body are strengthened, providing improved self-control.

    4. Crossword Puzzles and Picture Puzzles: It sounds simple, but these are great tools for kids with attention difficulties Crossword puzzles actually improve attention for words and sequencing ability, while picture puzzles—in which your younger child has to look for things that are “wrong” in the picture or look for hard-to-find objects—also improve attention and concentration.

    5. Memory and Concentration Games: Children’s games such as Memory or Simon are great ideas for improving memory and concentration. They are quick and fun. Memory motivates the child to remember the location of picture squares and Simon helps them memorize sequences of visual and auditory stimuli. Through repeated playing, brain circuits are “exercised” and challenged, which strengthens connections and thus improves function. Also, there are some free computer games on the internet that also improve concentration or memory such as Memory and Mosquito Killer. For older children and adolescents, check out the cognitive exercises provided by Lumosity.

    Here is the link to the full article:


    Is this my teenager or an alien in my house?

    Does your teenage child sometimes seem like she has been abducted by aliens and replaced by someone that you hardly know?  Blame it on her brain!

    Here is an interesting site about the teenage brain and the ways in which it differs from the fully-formed adult brain:


    This informative website gives examples of typical teen behaviors, explains why they occur and offers suggestions for dealing with them.

    For example, it is noted that teenagers demonstrate:

    • difficulty holding back or controlling emotions,
    • a preference for physical activity,
    • a preference for high excitement and low effort activities (video games, sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll),
    • poor planning and judgment (rarely thinking of negative consequences),
    • more risky, impulsive behaviors, including experimenting with drugs and alcohol

    These characteristics are explained by brain development science and are addressed with specific ideas of ways to remain involved in your teen’s life while setting appropriate limits.

    Establishing a Positive Parent-Teacher Relationship

    With a new school year around the corner, it isn’t too late to begin to think about beginning the year on the right foot.  A strong parent-teacher relationship seems like an obvious and simple way to begin a positive school experience, but this is sometimes easier said than done.  As adults, we are entitled to differing opinions and ideas of an ideal school experience.  Furthermore, we all have had our own positive or negative school experiences that color our perception of education, teachers and administrators.  PBS has published a great online article about fostering a strong parent-teacher relationship and provides several tips for parents.

    1. Approach the relationship with respect– Create a problem solving relationship instead of immediately confronting the teacher with what’s wrong.  A collaborative attitude will foster cooperation and respect rather than defensiveness and frustration.
    2. Let your child develop his/her own relationship with the teacher–  A young child’s relationship with her teacher is often a powerful one. Allow the child to develop her own connection with the teacher.  This will allow the teacher to develop a position of respect and admiration in your child’s eyes as well as foster his independence.
    3. Remember your own experiences in school– Your experience as a child may have an impact on your view of your child’s school experience and teacher.  If you had a negative experience as a child, try to leave your own feelings and biases behind and allow your child to begin school with a positive outlook.  Remind yourself that your child’s teacher and school are likely very different from those you experienced as a child.
    4. Find the right time to speak with the teacher– Just like you, teachers have times of the day in which they are very busy and are not available for a lengthy chat.  Keep this in mind and arrange a convenient time to talk with the teacher by sending him an email, leaving a voicemail or sending a short note.
    5. Come prepared to conferences and parent-teacher meetings– Your child’s teacher will be impressed and grateful if you come prepared to a meeting or discussion.  Make a list of the things that you want to discuss with the teacher.  Be specific and give examples.  Instead of saying, “Aaliyah always lies to me about her assignments,” say “Every afternoon, Aaliyah states that she does not have any homework or that she already did it on the bus.”  This will help you collaborate with the teacher to determine where Aaliyah is having difficulty and brainstorm solutions together.

    Information adapted from www.pbs.org/parents/goingtoschool/talking_teachers.html