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Best of Winter Picture Books

December 1st, 2019

Reading together is even more special in the winter, when the thought of curling up in a big chair with cocoa and blankets invites us to remember favorite childhood moments. Settle in with your favorite young children and share some well-deserved quiet time with these special, snowy gems:

  • Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening (Robert Frost) – One of our best-loved poems, beautifully illustrated by Susan Jeffers.
  • Snowy Day (Ezra Jack Keats) –The classic snow story for young children, now over fifty years old!
  • Snow (Uri Shulevitz) – A quiet story that builds with the excitement of an unexpected snowfall.
  • Snowmen at Night (Caralyn Buehner) – Our favorite of the popular series, giving us our first glimpse of what those snowmen are up to!
  • Snowballs (Lois Ehlert) – A creative and colorful recipe for the perfect snow family.
  • The Snowman (Raymond Briggs) and DVD – This brilliant wordless book led to the hauntingly beautiful children’s film.
  • Red Sled  (Lita Judge) – Newest on the scene, and winning accolades for its practically wordless portrayal of an animal sledding romp. Sure to be a toddler favorite!
  • Annie and the Wild Animals/The Hat/The Mitten (Jan Brett) – Jan Brett is the queen of the snowy picture book, inviting us into her wintry world with these favorite animal stories.
  • Bear Snores On (Karma Wilson) – This much-loved bear first burst on the scene in this cautionary tale of the dangers of hibernating through an animal cave party.

Not snowy outside? Add a sensory component to the experience by making your own snow! Just mix baking soda or cornstarch with shaving cream, or find other options online.

Remember that the book is just the beginning of a delightful conversation with your child, one that you may revisit again and again (and again!) to retell, ask questions, laugh and wonder about – anything to relate it to your child’s world. Soon enough your child will be telling these stories to you!

Author: Karen Coleman, Family and Support Coordinator

Posted by Siskin Admin  | Category: reading, engagement, family

What is ABA?

November 15th, 2019

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a therapy that focusss on behavior and learning. The overall goal of ABA is to figure out why a child behaves the way they do and then focuses on ways to encourage those good behavior habits and correct the harmful behaviors habits of that child. ABA focuses on positive reinforcement in order to decrease those unwanted behaviors. The therapy helps improve socially significant behaviors including communication and social skills, memory, academic performance, and language.

How does the ABA therapy work?
ABA Therapy typically follows these general steps, however these experiences are completely unique to each individual child.

  1. Referral to ABA (typically by a physician)
  2. Assessment will be done with a Board Certified Behavior Analysis (BCBA). A BCBA is a specialized therapist specifically for the ABA program.
  3. The BCBA will do visits (mostly in-home but could also be at school or in the community) to come up with strategies and goals to increase positive behavior in the child’s everyday life

Who is a good candidate for ABA?

ABA was created to help children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities. Our ABA program is designed for children anywhere from 18 months to 12 years. Like most therapy’s, ABA is more successful when started at a young age.

Watch the video above to learn more about the ABA program at Siskin Children's Institute. 

We have all seen post about being kind or teaching children about disabilities but what does that really mean to young children? How do you as an adult answer questions that perhaps you don’t really understand yourself? Is it rude to ask or even approach someone in a wheelchair or who has braces on their legs or maybe they just look, speak, eat different then you and I? What is the importance of teaching young children about engaging with someone who has a disability? How do you as a parent support a young child with developing a friendship with a child who perhaps is non-verbal?

The adults in a young child’s life has many influences and this includes how you interact with someone who may have diverse abilities that may make you uncomfortable because you just simply don’t know how to respond or engage. To create a culture of acceptance and inclusion, it is very important that we demonstrate and model appropriate and respectful responses to people we encounter in day to day life as well as those we pass on a daily basis.

If you are in a situation that it is appropriate to ask a person either about themselves or their child simply ask, “Do you mind if I ask about your child?” When we as adults avoid or ignore we are not modeling for our children that it is okay to have differences, we are all different in some way, and our differences makes us unique. When we model acceptance through simple gestures we are creating the foundation of inclusion on the most basic level.

Parents often say, "I wish someone would just ask me instead of telling their child don’t stare that is rude." Remember when asking someone about their disability or why they use a specific piece of equipment such as braces, wheelchair etc this does not give you permission to ask more personal questions, keep it general.

When young children that have never been around medical equipment and suddenly find themselves in a preschool classroom with a child who needs suctioning throughout the day or at the grocery store and pass a child who is different from them, they may find this a little scary. It is up to the adults to help this child understand that it is ok and our role is to help that child look past that device and see that this is just another little boy or girl in their class that likes to read and sing songs or at the store picking up groceries just like them.

Be honest! Answer the hard questions truthfully and directly but remember age appropriately. And remember disabilities are part of everyday life in every culture and across all socio-economic levels but most importantly remember we are all more alike than we are different. 

Author: Lisa Spurlock, Coordinator, Family Voices of Tennessee Southeast Partnership

Children can experience a lot of different emotions when returning back to school after the summer break. Anxiety is one of the most common feelings children experience at the beginning of the school year. Anxiety often is our reaction to the unknown. 

There are a lot of unknowns in a child’s life when they return back to school. 
Some common worries children have may include: 

  • Who are my classmates? 
  • Will I like my teacher?
  • Who will I sit next to? 
  • What will I be served for lunch? 
  • What will I play during recess?
  • Who will I play with? 
  • And the list continues…..

Some children are able to communicate their feelings using words; others express their emotions through behaviors (oppositional, socially withdrawing etc.) and physical symptoms (complaining of stomach aches, headaches, difficulty sleeping)

Here are some ways in which you can help ease their transition back to school: 

  • Encourage building of your child’s emotional vocabulary by helping them connect their internal feelings with behaviors and emotion words (e.g. when I feel nervous my hands get sweaty). This can help the child better recognize their feelings and ask for help or use their coping skills as soon as they notice their body’s physical cues.
  • Normalize their feelings. Remind the child that there are no good or bad feelings. Feeling anxious is very normal. 
  • Re-establish morning, bedtime and mealtime routines a couple of weeks before school starts. Discuss the drop off and pick up plans in detail so the child knows what to expect. This can be done by writing it down or making a picture schedule. The more your child can anticipate events, the more she will feel in control of her daily environment. 
  • Develop a back-to-school narrative with your child. Work with your child in making up a story about going back to school. This story can include your child as the main character or someone else. Help your child problem solve through storytelling. Children often share their inner feelings through play. Storytelling is a wonderful way to learn more about their concerns and fun way for them to learn adaptive coping skills!
  • Openly talk about them returning back-to-school. Ask your child about things they are excited about and things they are nervous about with respect to school. Openly (but in an age appropriate way) share about some of your own challenges as a student and talk about how you overcame them. This can be a casual conversation you have in the car or while coloring together. 
  • Teach and practice relaxation skills including deep breathing, meditation, etc. regularly. Blowing bubbles is a great way to practice deep breathing. This can help decrease some physical symptoms of anxiety. 
  • Visit the school with your child. Re-orient your child to their school. If the building is locked, walk around the school or play in the playground 
  • Built up the excitement! Help your child get excited about their return to school. Go backpack and school supplies shopping together! Help them pick out their outfit for their first day back! 
  • Transitional objects are a great way to help some children feel emotionally safe as they transition into a new environment. Depending on the child’s age this can be a teddy bear they take with them; a sign they make for the classroom or a note from a parent that they carry around in their pocket. 
  • Assign a “safe person” at school. This can be a teacher or staff member. This person can remind your child to use her relaxation skills when anxious. 

By: Dr. Amrita Uttamchandani, Clinical Psychologist, Siskin Center for Developmental Pediatrics

About the author

Dr. Uttamchandani  is a Clinical Psychologist with expertise in developmental delays. Dr. Uttamchandani’s particular specialty is working with children and adolescents who exhibit behavioral and emotional problems. She provides support for parents while working with children and adolescents to identify their struggles and develop adaptive ways to resolve them. Her perspective encourages collaboration between teachers, parents, family, and healthcare providers as they support the well-being of the child. Dr. Uttamchandani conducts psychological assessments to provide diagnosis clarification and treatment recommendations. She provides therapy in English, Hindi and Urdu, and, for clients who do not speak those languages, she is trained to provide therapy in the presence of an interpreter. 

As the use of technology and screens increases with young children, we asked Charity Somo from our Developmental Family Therapy Center to share her top 4 tips for ensuring our kids use these devices in a helpful and not harmful manner. See below for her tips and tricks to help parents help guide their child in the healthy use of technology.

1. Make an informed decision about technology. 

  • Is that technology age appropriate for your child? Having certain technological gadgets can be trendy. However, before investing in a certain technology ask yourself if your child needs that technology and what he/she will do with it.  
  • Is that app/game/website age appropriate for your child? Children often appear to be digitally advanced. While they can search and find apps and information with ease, they do not know how to judge and evaluate the information. Children need parental guidance to evaluate the online information they consume. Take the time to sit and go over apps/games/information with your children and teach them good decision making on digital activities.  

2. Be pro-active about technology. 
  • What is your child doing with the technology?  Children can do a lot of cool things with technology. This does not mean parents should leave them to their own devices. Devise a way to monitor your child’s digital activity. Try a family media agreement contract! 
  • Did you set up the parental controls on the technology? 
  • Does your child ask for your permission to be on that app/game/website? Parents can use parental controls to help children select non-harmful ways to engage with technology. Since parental controls cannot safe guard all digital activity, make sure your children ask for your permission before they download an app or visit websites.  
3. Manage your own technology use. 
  • How do you engage with your technology? Loving or hating technology are neither good options. Parents should have a healthy appreciation for technology and maintain healthy habits with their own technology. Moderate participation with your child on their apps/games is a healthy way to mentor them on good use of technology. Maintaining your own healthy use of technology sets a good example for your child. 
4. Build healthy family routines and habits. 
  • Do you have family time set aside daily? 
  • Do you intentionally interact with your child daily? Family time is important to enhance social skills, including communication, conflict management and emotional intelligence. Be intentional to create daily moments when they spend time engaging with their children, this can include dinner, watching TV together, or reading a bedtime story. 

Learn more about managing screen time by attending the upcoming workshop, Finding Balance: Screen Time.

References | Heitner, D. 2016. Screen wise: Helping kids thrive (and survive) in their digital world. Bibliomotion:  New York.  Bully Stoppers. Growing up digital: opportunities and challenges for parents. 
Additional Resources | 
Common sense media. Select “parents need to know” tab.

As they grow, children are always learning new things. Below are just some of the things you should look for as your child grows. Use this as a guide, and if you have any concerns, talk with your child’s medical provider. 

At 6 months, many children

  • respond to own name
  • respond to other people’s emotions and often seem happy
  • copy sounds
  • like to play with others, especially parents

At 1 year (12 months), many children
  • use simple gestures, like shaking head “no” or waving “bye-bye” 
  • say “mama” and “dada” and exclamations like “uh-oh!”
  • copy gestures
  • respond to simple spoken requests
At 1 ½ years (18 months), many children
  • play simple pretend, such as feeding a doll 
  • point to show others something interesting
  • show a full range of emotions, such as happy, sad, angry
  • say several single words

At 2 years (24 months), many children

  • say sentences with 2 to 4 words
  • follow simple instructions
  • get excited when with other children
  • point to things or pictures when they are named
At 3 years (36 months), many children
  • show affection for friends without prompting
  • carry on a conversation using 2 to 3 sentences
  • copy adults and friends
  • play make-believe with dolls, animals, and people
At 4 years (48 months), many children
  • tell stories 
  • would rather play with other children than by themselves
  • play cooperatively with others
Questions to ask your child’s doctor:
  • Is my child’s development on track for his or her age?
  • How can I track my child’s development?
  • What should I do if I’m worried about my child’s progress?
  • Where can I get more information?
Learn more by visiting, 1-800-CDC-INFO
Learn the Signs. Act Early.

* Information adapted from the Center for Disease Control.

Meet Bryson

May 21st, 2019

At the Siskin Center for Developmental Pediatrics, physical therapists like Kimberly, work hard to improve motor skills, balance and coordination as well as strength and endurance in children with special needs. 

For children who face physical challenges, long-term disabilities or injuries, physical therapy offers an opportunity for life-changing progress. Physical therapists are specially trained and skilled in working with children who face injuries, developmental delays, and a host of conditions that can affect a child’s ability to complete daily tasks.

Using age appropriate activities that incorporate games, swings, scooters, and other toys to increase engagement, our team is able to work with kids like Bryson to help them reach their full potential.

To learn more about our therapy programs, visit

Looking for summer learning opportunities, Siskin Children’s Institute has just what you need. Throughout the summer, staff from various programs will be offering workshops that will help families continue to learn and support their children. Workshops will focus on topic such as developing visual supports, using your voice and your story to advocate for your child, using augmentative and alternative communication devices at home, handwriting skills, improving mealtime routines and so much more! 

Siskin Children’s Institute works to provide information and resources for families and our summer workshop offerings aim to do just that. 

These workshops are open to anyone in our community. Some even offer multiple dates and times to best fit into your summer plans. A current schedule is available at 

Want to help your child strengthen their social skills over the summer break?  Siskin Children’s Institute offers social skills groups for children from 6-12 years old. Learn more.

Meet Megan, a Physician Assistant in our Center for Developmental Pediatrics Program. Below, Megan describes what a day looks like for her here at Siskin:

“Physician Assistants are Master’s level medical professionals who diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications, and often serve as a patient’s principal healthcare provider. With thousands of hours of medical training, PAs are versatile and collaborative.  PAs practice in every state and in every medical setting and specialty, improving healthcare access and quality. I am proud to be the first Physician Assistant on the medical team in the Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics Clinic at Siskin Children’s Institute.  

My job differs from many of my colleagues in other medical specialties.  Due to the nature of our patients with special needs, we spend a significant amount of time assessing the patient, taking detailed medical history starting with mother’s pregnancy, conducting a thorough physical exam, ordering and interpreting lab tests or imaging studies, performing specific standardized tests, all the while formulating a list of possible diagnoses.  Once we have the information gathered, we arrive at a diagnosis.  

At times the diagnosis is challenging for parents.  We do our best to provide up to date information, resources, and referrals to other specialists and therapists to help build a team to support the family/caregivers and child with special needs to help achieve their greatest potential.  If medication is indicated we will discuss the benefits and side effects of the medication and help parents and caregivers know what to expect.  We are available to the parents and caregivers for questions and concerns and follow up as often as needed until the child is stable.  

Siskin is a unique environment in that we have therapists, a psychologist, behavior analysts, teachers, early interventionists, and medical providers all under one roof.  We collaborate well with one another and one of the highlights of this position is seeing how our work in the clinic affects a child’s performance in other areas of their life.  I look forward to serving children with special needs and their families for many years to come.”

To learn more about our Center for Developmental Pediatrics, click here

Here at Siskin our mission is to improve the quality of life for children with special needs and their families. Below, Deidra Love, Director of our Home and Community-Based Early Intervention Program, shares a touching story that emphasizes the importance of our collaborative, family-centered approach.

"This is what we consider a BIG WIN in our Home and Community-Based Early Intervention (HCBEI) program:

One of our home visitors Catherine has been working with Ashley* and her grandson Sam* for several months now. Ashley shows great commitment in caring for Sam, who has some special health needs, language delay and challenging behavior at times, too. One of the goals Ashley created for Sam’s learning plan is that Sam will use more words to communicate what he wants throughout his day.

On weekly home visits, Catherine and Ashley talk about Ashley’s top priorities for Sam’s learning, brainstorm ideas to teach Sam to use words to ask for what he wants, and try out ideas to see how they will work in Sam’s regular activities. At a recent home visit, Catherine realized that Ashley really gets the point of early intervention coaching as she told Catherine, 'You know I’m not ACTUALLY a speech therapist, but I am kind of like Sam’s speech therapist, because every time you come, we make a plan of the ways I will work with him all week long and I do it. Now, he’s talking a lot more!'

This is a win for our program because one of our primary goals in early intervention is to build the confidence and capacity of families/caregivers as they teach their child to participate in regular, daily activities. We want them to understand that the REAL intervention happens all week long in between visits from the professional. Now, Ashley sees herself as the best and most capable teacher for her grandson, which is exactly how it should be!"

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of this family.