Let Sleeping Kids Lie

Years ago, I was teaching a preschool class where the topic was the letter g and, wearily holding up the alphabet card, I asked the group of 20 if they remembered the letter, not really expecting an answer. “G,” came a little voice, and when I turned to see who it belonged to, I almost tipped over from shock. It was Josh, a special education student who had been a crack baby and on whom – I hate to admit – I had just about given up.

From that point, I stopped seeing myself as a glorified babysitter and by the end of the year, Josh was reading and more advanced than the rest of his peers, including the two-thirds of the class that made up the general ed population.

Josh had been a champion napper and in the following years I noticed that those kids who were the best sleepers were also the best learners. I chalked this up to coincidence until recently. Research now shows that during sleep, especially the REM variety, short-term memories are transferred into long-term. This also makes way for new memories, which means catching a snooze is important not only after learning but before-hand as well. Studies show sleep helps in learning whether you’re a college student, a senior citizen or a fruit fly.

The right amount of sleep offers a suite of other benefits, including wound healing, decreased risk of obesity and increased immunity and longevity. Lack of sleep can result in “behavioral problems, permanent sleep disruption and decreased brain mass,” and an abnormal amount of neuronal (brain) cell death. The benefits of slumber makes evolutionary sense. Otherwise, why else would we spend about 1/3 of our day on it? See WebMD.com for sleep recommendations by age group.

If your child is initially resistant, you just need to turn napping into a habit. Have a set time each day, after lunch and perhaps a story, in a darkened room and power up a classical CD. I have yet to meet a child who will not eventually sleep in this type of setting.

So dream on!




Naps wipe the brain’s memory slate clean, a new sleep study says



Tossing, turning, forgetting



How Much Sleep Do Children Need?





November 20, 2011. Tags: , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.

Mind Patterns for Happy, Fulfilled, Good Kids (because good behavior can be a habit too!)

Miss Andrea is what “my kids” call me. As an admitted science nerd and public school teacher for almost 14 years specializing in children with behavior and learning problems, I share scientific research and insider teaching tips.

When I went from writing full-time to teaching full-time, I was clueless on the best way to reach my students with respect to learning and behavior. Three approaches helped me to become an effective teacher, which all fall under the category of “brain-based studies:”

MIND PATTERNS means our thoughts regularly travel in pathways, which, like a phone number, have a tendency to become more entrenched with usage. Behaviorists call this Learned Skill theory, which means once a behavior is learned it is usually more difficult to unlearn. Practice, therefore, is essential to engraving new, improved thinking patterns. As with most bad habits, understanding mind patterns includes understanding  the function of an undesired behavior and finding replacement skills for it.

EVOLUTIONARY PSYCHOLOGY holds that behaviors or traits that occur universally in all cultures and various species (such as language, parenting, personality and social relationships) are good candidates for evolutionary adaptations. To understand these adaptations is to make behaviors work better for the individual.

SCIENTIFIC HUMANISM encompasses an approach to teaching that has the most evidence to back it up. It is also is the most popular approach used by teaching professionals. The premise in humanism is that the best way to socialize our children is to adopt a rational stance to molding hearts, rather than wielding a higher power to coerce behavior.

The end result was that it became relatively easy to shape my kids into well-behaved, academically-capable children –- an achievement considering I run a self-contained classroom for kids with behavior and/or learning issues so severe they are prevented from inclusion into the general education population.

July 7, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.