Hands-on Learning: 101

Education is a very scrutinized area in society. Most people are concerned about global and national averages, test scores, and getting students into college. While the education that young people get is through lectures and reading textbooks, the best teaching method is hands-on. Hands-on learning allows students to do what they are learning in real life. It is essential to show students how to do something rather than tell them. Here are the benefits of hands-on learning.

Improved Information Retention

Hands-on learning is a great way of improving information retention. Students remember more from hands-on learning than from lectures. This type of learning allows students to practice and apply what they have learned in real life.

Increased Confidence

When a student learns by doing, they can gain knowledge and confidence. They will understand how something works and how to use it. Hands-on learning also helps students become independent learners, which is important in the classroom setting because it allows them to learn on their own rather than listening to others’ lectures.


Attentiveness is a huge part of learning. Students need to feel involved and excited about their learning to be attentive. You can achieve this through hands-on learning because students can see how something works and how it is used in real life.

To read the rest of this article visit Russ Ewell’s blog.


Tips for Teaching Your Kids About Boundaries

Changing the way to approach the subject of teaching boundaries altogether is the best tip for teaching kids about boundaries. Some boundaries are easily established to children through example, and others need a little more prep work or reinforcement. It’s a simple task to get a child to answer with a “yes, ma’am” or a “no, sir” if they hear it first. Some people might have to reward their children with praise when teaching the importance of technical niceties like saying please and thanks while making demands. It’s important to remember to keep attention span, vocabulary, and the child’s overall temperament in mind while laying down the rules or demonstrating best practices.

Making a clear and even assessment of the child’s behavior is the first step to take. There might be good behavior already occurring or a previous understanding on which to build. Keep the expectations consistent and simple. Take care not to “stack” issues. Instead, work on simple concepts like table manners and work up to concepts like privacy, honesty, and diplomacy. Be prepared to recognize the fact that every child is a work in progress. Helping them establish boundaries involves a good bit of patience and reflection. Be ready to come down to their level just a smidge.

Due to individual levels of experience and imagination, repetition of concepts and rules may be necessary for children while teaching them new behavior. This is especially true if the best practices involve learning new life skills like reading and writing. It’s all about showing the better way to do things, which requires a slightly open mind. Make sure to keep your own temper in check with a helpful mindset.

When it’s all said and done, remember that you have the power of veto and the upper hand. However, there’s a difference between knowing something and teaching it. Be ready to learn something new.

For anyone who needs to start setting boundaries right now, the following rules and regulations listed should make the task a little less troublesome. Some people consider them to be a roundup of the information above.

Quick checklist:

  • Think about what behavior(s) need to change and their priorities
  • Keep communications calm and clear
  • Maintain steady and consistent values and messages
  • Be ready to respect any boundaries being enforced
  • Vetoes are as simple as saying “No.”

This article was originally published on Russ Ewell’s blog.

Tips for Helping Neurodivergent and Neurotypical Children Get Along

While neurodiverse children need a diverse and individualized education tailored to their unique way of thinking and learning, neurotypical children are considered the norm. This is because they can think and act like other children. This difference in neurological proclivities can be challenging in a sibling relationship, especially if one is on the autistic spectrum while the other is not.

Here are 3 tips to help parents support their child’s relationship with one another despite their different neurological profiles:

Tip #1: Balance Out Attention-Seeking

Many parents spend their time and energy trying to find a cure for autism, leaving neurotypical children out of the conversation and feeling ignored. Family members and specialists may pay less attention to them, which can lead to a sense of invisibility. To make each child feel loved and appreciated, make quality time for each of them separately.

Tip #2: Avoid Making a Big Deal Out of Their Differences

According to child psychologists, the goal of raising a child is to help them develop as an individual so they will be able to grow into self-sufficient adults. One way to do this is by avoiding discussing the differences between siblings. Instead, assume that this difference is perfectly normal.

Children should be taught how to deal with the difference between them by their parents, so they can better understand the world. As they grow up, children learn new things about themselves all the time, and their minds are constantly changing. By not elaborating on the difference between each child, they’ll both be able to handle more complex thoughts and emotions as they mature.

It is a mistake to make a big deal out of the autism of one child or the normalcy of the other. Parents should instead give each child the love and attention they need based on their psychological and neurological perspectives.

Tip #3: Be a Good Listener

Siblings should be encouraged to be more aware of accepting one another. Siblings who are not close because they think and behave differently may each feel like they are deprived of something their sibling has. As a result, they can develop jealousy and resentment, causing them to argue. As it’s important for siblings to share their lives with one another and support one another’s choices in life, parents should learn to be good listeners-giving each child the attention they need to feel understood and appreciated.     

This article was originally published on Russ Ewell’s blog.

Tips for Handling Your Child’s Meltdown

A child’s meltdown can quickly change a peaceful afternoon into a nightmare. New parents may struggle to find the right way to handle the meltdown that decreases its chances of happening in the future. While no child is the same, here are a few great tips that can be adjusted to fit a variety of children and their needs.

Learn the child’s triggers

Children can often become overstimulated by various situations, noises, or people. They may not want to do certain activities or chores and feel anxious about spending time outside of the home. Any emotion can develop into a meltdown. Parents should take the time to spot patterns in their child’s behavior that might indicate what is causing an emotional reaction.

By limiting instances that cause uncomfortable feelings and encouraging healthy, clear ways of communicating, parents can recognize when their child needs a break. Learning these cues will also help teachers at school, grandparents, and babysitters to better understand what they can do to help the child feel safe and communicate their feelings.

Establish a reward system

A reward system can be utilized to encourage the right behaviors without discouraging the child. Tokens are a great way to barter with children who want to be rewarded. Tokens can be given for displaying the right behaviors like cleaning up and being honest.

Children should feel encouraged to earn more tokens without fearing being denied tokens. For example, every good action no matter how small should be rewarded. If a child does poorly at school and brings home a bad grade, they should still receive a small reward for showing the assignment to their parents instead of hiding it.

Maintain rules and boundaries

Parents may struggle to maintain the rules when they don’t seem to initially work. A child may be upset they’re not getting enough tokens to do what they want or end up having a meltdown anyway. By staying calm and maintaining the established rules, the parent can successfully manage their child’s emotions. Meltdowns, fits, and tantrums will still happen even if the parent knows all their child’s triggers. Remaining steadfast and empathetic are great ways to connect and work with a child.          

This article was originally published on Russ Ewell’s blog.

How To Make Holiday Parties Easier for Children on the Autism Spectrum

As the holiday season inches nearer and nearer, so do the various gatherings, shopping trips, and traditions that accompany the season. Although each of these can be sources of great joy and connection, chances are they also bring a little stress along with them. For families with children on the autism spectrum, the holidays likely even present a range of new challenges and experiences. In order to create the most stress-free, enjoyable holiday season, families can take several steps to benefit their child’s individual needs.

Getting Started

A great place to start is to set expectations reasonably and communicate with family and guests. As a parent, this might mean carefully considering what traditions to keep, and accepting that some things will have to be done differently. Not all previous family traditions may work with a child’s needs, but there are likely some special ones that can remain, or even be altered in new and creative ways. The best thing to do is keep an open mind and set expectations reasonably.

Consulting Guests

Once the parents set expectations, they can reach out to family and guests to inform them of any adjustments. This might take the form of a well-thought-out email or text to party-goers, explaining what to expect and how to best support the child’s needs.

Planning for your Child

As the party approaches, families can make the experience easier for their children by planning for their preferences ahead of time. Having a designated “settle-down spot,” for example, can be a great resource for children on the spectrum to help calm themselves if things get too overwhelming. Keeping tangible toys around, being mindful of volume levels, and providing headphones can all be critical tools for keeping your child calm and content as well. Even planning alternative food options can be a great idea, as holiday foods can be foreign and stressful in comparison to your child’s normal dietary preferences.

Enjoy the Party

The last and most important things families with children on the autism spectrum can do is remember the main purpose of the holidays: to spend joyful time with family. Practicing gratitude this season might mean giving your child breaks and focusing on what they love about the season. After all is said and done, enjoy the party, and know that you have cultivated the best holiday experience for your child.

This article was originally published on Russ Ewell’s blog.

What to Understand Before Becoming a Special Education Teacher

As a teacher, you want to make sure that your students are getting the best education possible. But to do this, you need to understand what it takes to become a special education teacher. There is more than meets the eye when it comes to teaching these kids and understanding their needs. This blog post will discuss 5 things that teachers need to know before becoming a special education teacher.

  1. Different types of Special Education

Depending on your state, you may teach kids with different needs and skillsets. In Massachusetts, kids who are deaf, have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), intellectual disabilities (ID), and other health impairments are all in special education classrooms. The nice thing about this is that you get to know what these kids need academically and neurologically through content knowledge and experience.

  1. Separate Standards

Special education teachers are held to different standards than other teachers. You may not be judged by how many of your kids pass the PARCC or MCAS, but instead, how many of your kids make “mastery” of the standards. This is done by evaluating students on their individualized education program (IEP) goals and objectives that they are working towards.

  1. Different Time Lines

As a special education teacher, you may have different timelines to complete specific tasks. For example, a student with autism may not understand the concept of a timed test and thus may take much longer to complete one. We also work with students on goals/objectives that are taking place over an entire school year, summer vacation included.

  1. Different Curriculum

You may think that you will be teaching fractions and decimals as a special education teacher, however, this is not the case. Some kids with ASD do learn through the use of pictures and symbols, which is where fractions and decimals come in. Other kids need to learn the basics, such as reading and writing.

  1. Different Responsibilities

As a special education teacher, you may have different responsibilities than other teachers when it comes to your students. This includes meeting with parents, paraprofessionals, and administrators to discuss specific concerns and progress; designing and planning lessons for each student following the IEP goals and objectives; implementing differentiated instruction to meet student needs, which may include different accommodations or modifications during assessments.

How to Talk to Kids About Disabilities

Hi! I’m so glad you’re here to read this article about how to talk to kids about disabilities. I know it can be a little scary at first, but the more you practice it, the better you’ll get. Here are some things that have worked for many people with teaching kids with disabilities:

1) Be patient and compassionate:

Kids will be curious, and it’s your job as a parent or teacher to help them understand.

-Let the child come up with their own questions for you instead of trying to answer everything on the spot. That way, they can learn things at their own pace that works best for them. If they don’t ask you any questions, that’s okay! You can always bring it up yourself or just let them know they’re welcome to talk to you about anything.

-Reassurance is essential too. If a child asks if their classmate has cancer and the answer is yes, reassure them that the classmate will be okay.

-Sometimes, kids with disabilities need extra help, but it’s crucial for them to be still treated as just ordinary people and not some “special” kid who requires special treatment from everyone else. They want to do things on their own too!

2) Understand what triggers your child’s anxiety or fears related to disability:

-Sometimes, it’s hard for kids to learn about disabilities because they may be scared of what might happen if something similar were to ever happen to them. For instance, if your child is afraid of getting leukemia like their cancer friend, talk with them and see where that fear comes from. Sometimes talking through fears can help ease the worry.

3) Don’t underestimate the impact of your words on children- they will listen intently and soak up everything that is said:

-This can be super scary, but it’s also awesome at the same time. Kids are really wise and will listen to everything you say about disabilities because they want to learn more! They may even ask questions that seem a little off or strange just because they’re curious.

4) Make sure any accommodations are well documented in writing- this will make communicating easier later when working with teachers, therapists, etc.

-You can try to communicate accommodations verbally, but sometimes that doesn’t work out too well (especially if the teacher is new). Having written documentation means you’ll always be prepared! Even if your child only needs accommodation for one day at school, having them in writing means you have proof that it’s necessary.

-I also recommend keeping track of when your child needs accommodations, so they don’t need to keep explaining themselves every time or feel bad about asking for help. You can use something like a calendar on your phone or computer to note down the date and what kind of accommodation your child needs. That way, you can easily show it to an authority figure if necessary, and they’ll know what’s going on right away!

This article was originally published on Russ Ewell’s blog.

Teaching Children About Inclusion

One of the most important lessons you will ever teach your child is about inclusion. It’s crucial that your child learns about tolerance and diversity in the world. They need to understand that others may be different than them, but they are just as special.

If your child says they don’t want to invite a certain friend to their party because they may act weird, dig for the real concern. You can explain to your child that just because a person may act differently doesn’t mean they are “weird.” You can remind your child that they don’t need to focus on one person at the party. It’s important that they pay attention to everyone equally at the party. They should quickly learn that including everyone will make each person feel special.

Children should grow up to be inclusive from a young age. They shouldn’t have to learn this value later in life. They should learn that everyone is unique.

Always encourage your child to include other people with disabilities. Even if the child cannot play the same as your child, it’s important to engage with them. They can make up games or change their type of play to include everyone., to play.

Teach your child to always treat others the way they want to be treated. It’s a traditional saying, but it rings true just as much today as a thousand years ago. Tell them to try to step into the other person’s shoes. Treat that person with respect and dignity, the way they would want to be treated.

Never label a child that has special needs. Tell your child to never say “the kid that has hearing aids” or “the one that is in a wheelchair.” This only points out differences. It’s important to see past these disabilities to the person’s core. Even if they don’t notice the difference, it’s important they learn not to label them, even if it is on accident.

Tell your child how special they are as a person. They should understand that if a child with special needs is belittling them, they don’t get special treatment just because they have a disability. Everyone is on an equal playing field and should be treated special.

Originally published on Russ Ewell’s website.

Navigating the Developmental Services System

According to the research by the First 5 Center for Children’s Policy, families often have to wait for months or even years before receiving the formal diagnosis necessary to begin receiving services. Such delays can be very detrimental to some children as there are often critical windows of time in which interventions for specific conditions such as Rett’s Syndrome or autism are most effective.

Bureaucratic Delays

Notwithstanding the increases in postponements of services because of the pandemic that prevent children’s interactions with professionals or doctors, the chief reasons for delays are the bureaucratic inefficiencies and complexity of a state’s system for detecting and providing services to children’s developmental issues. Often, with little or no guidance, parents must deal with various health care providers, insurance programs, and special education departments, all of which have different eligibility criteria. One mother complained, “I felt like I had been shot out like a pinball and I just kept bumping into these different things that were kind of pushing me along.” It took two years before this parent obtained a diagnosis for her autistic daughter. This delay caused the loss of a critical period for the girl’s interventions that would have greatly benefitted her.

Interactive Flowchart

Unfortunately, there is often no cohesive system in which each department’s representative knows what the previous person has said and done. As an illustration of the complex issues that parents encounter in California, an interactive flowchart was created by the First 5 Center for Children’s Policy to show the various pathways that a family having a child under four years of age must navigate to receive support for a social-emotional or developmental health issue.

This chart does not include the first challenge of identifying a child’s problem and procuring a diagnosis. It does, however, illustrate several possible systems that a family may need to deal with, such as California Children’s Services, Medi-Cal, and Early Start programs. There are also local educational agencies, community-based programs, county mental health plans, and managed-care plans.


Taking steps to improve the system, California is expanding and clarifying early intervention eligibility. It is making improvements in its collection of statewide data and accountability for managed care plans. Developing preventative services for young children at risk for mental health or developmental problems has also been included. Sometimes, when a child is small, preventive services for young children with treatable problems can keep such conditions from becoming worse.

Originally published on Russ Ewell’s website.