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The Family Center: enrichment programs for families and professionals

Dog bites are "Ruff"!

Ask the Experts by Ed Lazar 

Q: The weather is nice again and I worry about my children approaching dogs that our neighbors let wander in our community. What are some safe tips that I might be able to share with them?

A. Of course, we and our neighbors get outside more, especially to walk our dogs. Fido likes the nice weather too. To be kind to man and beast alike, we need to be a bit cautious while we are out and about.

It seems grim to note that as many as 1 million people each year require medical attention because of dog attacks. And, though not widely published, dog bites represent one of the major public health problems of children with over half of all children bitten by age 12.

Read more: Dog bites are "Ruff"!


Building Blocks for High Academic Achievement

Ask the Experts by Detroit Waldorf School

Q: If my child is not reading or writing by the time they are in preschool, will they be able to attain high academic achievement?

In our nationwide effort to reinforce the future success of our educated workforce and nation, we tend to teach our young students too much, too fast, and we, in turn, miss the opportunity to provide them with a strong foundation of knowledge that's rich with tools and techniques, not just facts and statistics.

Detroit Waldorf School begins teaching literacy and numeracy on the student's first day, using a layered environment that affords students time to reflect on their lessons. Before students are introduced to sound and word recognition, teachers focus on reinforcing the child's love for language by immersing them in a classroom filled with storytelling, poems and foreign languages.

Read more: Building Blocks for High Academic Achievement


Dyslexia Fixes: Let the Buyer Beware

Ask the Experts by Ann Laciura

Q: I’ve noticed some on-line advertisements claiming that dyslexia is a vision problem and can be treated with a special pair of glasses. Is there anything to this?

A: Generations ago, one theory about the nature of dyslexia was that it had something to do with vision. However, science has debunked that as hokum. Researchers at Yale and elsewhere have done functional brain scans, comparing a dyslexic brain with an ordinary brain. They have concluded that the dyslexic's brain is wired differently, causing difficulty in processing letters and sounds -- reading and spelling.

The science-based strategy of multisensory instruction with constant review and building on basics has proven over time to address these issues.

I should hasten to add that dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence. In fact, the very structure that causes language problems is the same structure that gives the dyslexic big picture, out of the box creativity. Hence, some of the greatest minds in history have been dyslexic. (Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford to name but a few.) For more information, go to

Read more: Dyslexia Fixes: Let the Buyer Beware


Eight Reasons to "Age at Home"

Ask the Experts by Mary Ellen Brayton

Q: My 82 year old father lives alone and is fiercely independent but he's finding it more difficult to handle everything at home. We are not sure if he should still be driving, cooking, and if he's actually taking his medications on a regular basis. It's a touchy topic with him, but we are starting to see a decline in his abilities.

A: "I don't need help" is a typical response when a family member suggests calling someone for assistance.

As tough as it may be to enlist the help of a "stranger" when it comes to caring for your parents, sometimes it's for the best. It will take the strain off of family and your parent may also benefit from professional care in the comforts of home.

Here are some advantages to home care:

Read more: Eight Reasons to "Age at Home"


What is this 'ABA' I keep hearing about?

Ask the Experts by Veronica McAtee & Lori Warner

Q: My son was just diagnosed with autism, and the team recommended he receive "ABA therapy." But I don't even know what that means, or where I can get it.

A: ABA stands for Applied Behavior Analysis, which studies how we learn and how we can change behaviors.

We break down complex skills like having a conversation or getting dressed into smaller, more manageable pieces, and use a system of prompts and rewards to motivate learners. ABA treatment is usually conducted by Board Certified Behavior Analysts (see below for more details!) and can help with a variety of skills such as communication, socialization, play, self-help skills, tantrums, feeding, sleeping, and toileting, just to name a few.

Read more: What is this 'ABA' I keep hearing about?


Encouraging Reading Skills in Children

Ask the Experts by Michael Richman

Q. What can parents do to encourage kids to read more and improve their skills as they get older?

A. Reading comprehension skills are crucial to academic achievement. Children will be expected to read vast amounts during their academic careers and will need to continue to develop this skill from their early school years and further.

Reading for pleasure is also important for children. Reading fiction helps students develop healthy imaginations which encourage dynamic thinking and problem solving.

Parents can have a huge impact on their children's progress in reading and here are some tips for parents who wish to instill a love of reading in their children:

Read more: Encouraging Reading Skills in Children


Plant Some Seeds to Better Health and Teachable Moments

Ask The Experts by Mary Ellen Brayton

Q:  What are some fun summer activities that I can let my children help my parents with that would be interactive plus maybe share some teachable moments along the way?

A:  Why not start with a garden? Besides looking nice and providing healthier foods, maintaining a garden can also improve your health. Working in the garden on a daily basis has been proven to relieve stress, improve mental health, boost exercise, and improve nutrition.

Read more: Plant Some Seeds to Better Health and Teachable Moments


Stress Relief: Pause and Breathe

Ask the Experts by Jill Wrubel

Q. STRESS is being written and talked about everywhere, however much of the information is so difficult to comprehend and figure out what to do? Often I feel stressed at work, come home and feel stressed there too, not knowing how I can let go of the day.

A. There are many writings about Stress: articles, books, blogs, DVD, CD, television specials, yet why does it continue to seem so elusive?

Perhaps the varying degrees of language? Whether from the most eloquent, fluent, silver-tongued or well-spoken person offering research, medical and statistical data--- or the polar opposite, all are offering the bottom line that stress is part of everyday living, an option of behavior: mentally, emotionally and physically in response to one's point of view about their work away from the home, an at-home work job, a volunteer activity at work or in the community, at church, in school, the neighborhood organization and often the most volatile stress is at home with the family.


Read more: Stress Relief: Pause and Breathe


How to Help Children when Parents Divorce

Ask the Experts by Mary Anne Lushe, LMSW, LMFT

Q. My husband and I are divorcing after 16 years of marriage. We have three children ages 4, 11 and 14. What can we do to help our children through this difficult transition?

A. A couple in any phase of divorce, generally have powerful and pretty raw emotions which make it more difficult to provide the security, consistency and parenting that children require. It is a time of self-focus that asks parents to contain their anger, pain and conflict. It is also a time when parents can position themselves and their children for a healthy, resilient future. 

Divorce isn't a single event but a series of changes that take place over months and years. Children need two parents who will not speak against each other, who will not use any of the children as mediators or go betweens rather than directly working issues through together. It asks of parents a sensitivity to the changing needs of their children even when your own needs may be overwhelming at times.

Read more: How to Help Children when Parents Divorce


Celebrating Differences! How to Support Your Different Learner

Ask the Experts by Geralyn DeBoard, DMC Children's Hospital of Michigan Autism Center

Q. How might I know if my child is a different learner?

A. Parents may recognize differences in their child once he or she enters school and begins participating in school activities. Parents may also receive reports or seek information from their child's teacher regarding strengths and weaknesses noted in school performance.

It may be a good idea for parents to observe their child in school and in social settings to be able to recognize differences. If a parent has concerns prior to the start of pre-school or other formal school placement, he or she can seek help from the local public school office or Early On. The parent should also seek help from the primary care physician.

Read more: Celebrating Differences! How to Support Your Different Learner


Early treatment is key to correcting concerns about your child's development

Ask the Experts by Amy McKenzie, MD

Q. It seems like my child isn't developing like the other children. My pediatrician says there's nothing to worry about. What should I do?

A. Listen to your instinct!

Early warning signs include:

  • Sensory issues (when a child strongly dislikes (or craves) touch, sound, sight, and/or smell)
  • Delayed milestones
  • Limited eye contact or engagement with family members and other children
  • Lack of pointing
  • Lack of waving bye-bye
  • Lack of speech to develop, or regression of speech

Read more: Early treatment is key to correcting concerns about your child's development


Ways Older Adults Misuse Medications

Ask the Experts by Jeff and Debra Jay

Q. I am the primary adult caregiver in our family for my parents. How do I help my aging parents manage all of their prescriptions and over-the-counter medications?

A. When drugs come from a doctor's prescription pad, misuse is harder to identify. We assume pharmaceutical drugs are only used for medical conditions, but many older adults take medications for nonmedical reasons.

Abusing or misusing mood-altering prescription drugs can affect older adults lives in three ways: cognitive decline, deterioration of physical health, and an inability to live independently. Adult children will find themselves in a caregiver role years, even decades, before they expected to face these problems.

Read more: Ways Older Adults Misuse Medications


How to Have Stress Work for You, Not Against You

Ask the Experts by Nancy Piatek

People are always talking about how stressed they are in life. However, without stress, your life would be unexciting and boring. There is good stress and bad stress. Let's learn how to handle stress and have it work for you instead of against you.

Q. What is stress?

A. The definition of stress is a physical, chemical or emotional, factor to which an individual fails to make a satisfactory adaptation and which causes physiological tensions that may be the contributory cause of disease; the state or condition of strain.

Q. How can I make my life less stressful?

A. It is important for you to recognize the demands of stress on your body and deal with it before it becomes a harmful stress or "bad stress -"distress." Learning how to relax is the best strategy.

Read more: How to Have Stress Work for You, Not Against You


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