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The Family Center: enrichment programs for families and professionals

Reading Skills for Children

Ask the Experts by Melissa Sharp

I am a mother of twin preschoolers seeking knowledge on the early phases of reading and writing.

Preparing a child to read and write begins with the first book read in infancy.  From that point, children need experiences that foster oral language, content knowledge, literacy skills, and thinking.

What understandings and skills does my child need when learning to read?

Print conventions:  reading left to right and top to bottom, spaces between words, using upper and lower case letters, and punctuation. Alphabet and phonological awareness:  translating letters into sounds.

Oral language:  oral vocabulary and background knowledge, access to interesting books.

Read more: Reading Skills for Children


Get a Doctor's Opinion if You Suspect Learning Disabilities

Ask the Experts by Lori J. Warner, Ph.D.

Q: Our 21-month-old daughter does not respond to her name and when we tell her "no," she doesn't stop what she is doing. Is it OK to take a "wait and see" approach or should we be concerned?

A: Parents often worry about behaviors that are part of typical development, but some behaviors are "red flags," indicating the need for a closer look. Always share your concerns with your child's doctor.  For more information about what milestones to watch for as your child grows, visit or the American Academy of Pediatrics at

Read more: Get a Doctor's Opinion if You Suspect Learning Disabilities


Private Caregiver vs. Home Care Companies

Ask the Experts by Carolyn Van Dorn

Q: I am considering hiring a caregiver to help with our special needs child. What is the difference between hiring a private caregiver and using a home care company? 

A: When utilizing the services of a private caregiver, you may pay less per hour and not have to agree to a minimum number of hours per day or week. You will have to perform applicant searches, be responsible for paying payroll taxes, carry personal liability, worker's compensation and unemployment insurance.

Your homeowner's insurance company may require you to register the domestic worker that is on site. Private care givers do not typically have anyone to fill in for them if they are ill or need time off work. You also become the human resource manager, responsible for all aspects of job performance and problems.

Read more: Private Caregiver vs. Home Care Companies


Science reveals benefits of dyslexia

Ask the Experts by Ann Laciura

Q: Our fourth-grade son was just diagnosed with dyslexia, and we are about to start lessons with an Orton-Gillingham-trained instructor.  The problem is, because of his frustration in school, our son is convinced that he is stupid, nothing will change that, and tutoring is a waste of time. What can we do to give him hope?

A. Dyslexia does not mean a person is stupid. In fact, history shows, quite the opposite. Tell your son that he is in excellent company. Albert Einstein was no slouch, revolutionizing physics. Fellow innovators Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell and Henry Ford were dyslexic. In the art world, Leonardo da Vinci and Walt Disney are giants.

Among today’s dyslexic public figures are journalist Anderson Cooper, business tycoon Richard Branson, and authors John Irving and Stephen Cannell. Dyslexic entertainers include Jay Leno, Cher, Whoopi Goldberg, Quentin Tarantino and Henry Winkler.

I might refer you to a wonderful book: The Gift of Dyslexia: Why Some of the Smartest People Can’t Read and How They Can Learn.

Read more: Science reveals benefits of dyslexia


Making the Holidays Less Materialistic

Ask the Experts by Eric Herman

It's not the gifts but what's bind them that's important - the spirit of giving. Help your kids learn the fun of giving with some parental tips to help curb materialism in your kids and reinforce the real reason for the season:

Q. During this time of year kids are bombarded with commercials to entice them to want a variety of toys and gadgets they may not need. What can parents do?

A. Of course, it can be challenging to eliminate all exposure to TV and radio marketing messages, but you can always turn off the TV or limit your kids' watching time.

Another important tip is to teach children that not everything they want can always be theirs and that a little "want" here and there isn't all bad. 

Q. What are some things that parents can do to help make the holiday more meaningful?

Read more: Making the Holidays Less Materialistic


Treatments for Kids with Migraine Headaches

Ask the Experts by Lalitha Sivaswamy, MD

What are some of the common treatments for kids who have migraine headaches?

There are two groups of medicines used --"rescue medications" are what you would use when you get a migraine when you are in school or when you need relief right away. There are good rescue medications nowadays including certain inhalants, oral pills and even injectables. It depends on your level of comfort and what works best for you. Examples of these drugs include sumatriptan and rizatriptan.

Some other children have very frequent headaches for which using a daily medication may be a better option.

Read more: Treatments for Kids with Migraine Headaches


HOLLYFEST 2012 a Great Success

The Family Center thanks all of our sponsors, supporters and friends who gathered for HOLLYFEST's Diamond Anniversary Celebration. A record number of attendees made for a record-breaking fundraiser in all respects.

As always, the hospitality and charm of the Grosse Pointe Club helped make for an enjoyable evening and a great way to kick off the season while raising funds for the continued success of The Family Center.

Thanks also to the Grosse Pointe News for front-page coverage of the festivities!

The HOLLYFEST committee will soon be getting plans underway for next year, so sponsorship opportunities and auction item placements will soon be available.


Program Planning

The Family Center is planning for the future - and you can help shape it! Please participate in our community poll. It will only take a minute and it will help define the types of programs and presentations that we bring to you. Click the Read more link below to continue to the poll.

Read more: Program Planning


Help Your Child Succeed Using Their Personal Learning Style

Ask the Experts by Michael Richman

Q: How can parents determine their child's "learning style" and what are some tips to help students succeed in school based on their particular "learning style"?

A. How each child reaches his/her full academic potential is something every parent is yearning to know. What's your child's "learning style" - visual, auditory or kinesthetic?

Identifying one's learning style allows students to score higher on tests, have better attitudes and become more efficient. Students learn in many ways, like seeing, hearing and experiencing things first hand. But for most students, one of these methods stands out.Your "learning style" may be the single most important key to improving your grades. Research has shown that students can perform better on tests if they change study habits to fit their own personal learning styles.

Read more: Help Your Child Succeed Using Their Personal Learning Style


Managing Childhood Diabetes with Good Nutrition

Ask the Experts by Sarah Yandall

I am a parent seeking information as to how to manage my child's diabetes with good nutrition, thank you for your help in addressing my questions. Why is good nutrition essential to manage both type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

Making good food choices is essential for blood sugar management. Focusing on how much carbohydrate is in each meal and snack, is a must for keeping blood sugars within range. We know now that all carbohydrates raise blood sugar so the focus is on counting carbohydrates rather than looking at sugars. A meal that has a good balance of protein, carbohydrate, fat and fiber will slow absorption from sugars into the bloodstream.

Read more: Managing Childhood Diabetes with Good Nutrition


Keeping Kids Busy in the Fall and Winter at Play Central

Ask The Experts by Carla Whitton, Play Central Coordinator

Q: It's already fall and the weather makes it hard to get my little ones outside. Do you have any advice on how to survive the fall and winter with them?

A: Young children certainly have limitless amounts of energy. Many parents begin to feel cooped up when the weather gets cooler.

There are lots of great indoor options for poor-weather playtime. Most parents have tried out McDonald's playland, The Bounce House, and Eastland's play area.

Why not try something new? One great local choice many people don't know about is Play Central. Play Central is a drop-in open play group run by The Family Center, a local non-profit organization.

The program begins in October, when it starts getting kind of cold for outdoor play. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, we meet in the gym at Barnes Early Childhood Center. We offer both a morning session from 9 am to 11 am, and an afternoon session from 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm. It costs just $5 each visit for the whole family.

Read more: Keeping Kids Busy in the Fall and Winter at Play Central


Could My Child have Dyslexia?

Ask the Experts by Ann Laciura 

Q: My second-grade son is smart and tries his best in school, but he still struggles with reading, spelling and remembering even his address. Could this mean he has a learning disability?

A. An unexplained inability to process language could well be dyslexia. Dyslexia, a genetic, neurological condition, simply means the brain is wired differently than most brains.

The condition, which experts estimate affects up to 20 percent of the population, has nothing to do with intelligence. In fact many of the brightest minds in history were dyslexic: Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, to name a few.

The common characteristics of dyslexia include:

Read more: Could My Child have Dyslexia?


College Accommodations for Students with a Disability

Ask the Experts by Marianne Balton ACSW, PhD Candidate

Q: My daughter had an IEP in high school and is now on her way to college. How can I make sure she gets the help she needs for her learning disability? 

The best way a parent can help a daughter who is transitioning from high school to college is to support her autonomy. Once a student has been accepted into a college or university, she is expected to navigate independently, as an adult.

Because the laws which govern services in higher education differ greatly from those of K-12, parents and students need to be aware of these differences in order to maximize ease of service attainment. In K-12, parents participate in the IEP process, but are excluded from the arranging of accommodations in higher education unless the student authorizes them to do so in writing with a FERPA waiver.

Colleges and universities are not obligated to contact students to recruit them for accommodations; but rather, students are obligated to contact the university disability service office to identify their needs and request services. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act ensures that adults receive accommodations when the student makes the request, and provides qualifying documentation. 

Read more: College Accommodations for Students with a Disability


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