- Back to School Check-Up
- Extra Credit: Choosing the Right School, Tutor, and Afterschool Activities
- RESOURCES (below): UChicago Medicine – Comer Children’s | Helping Hand | Let It Be Us | SunCloud Health | Great Lakes Volleyball Center | Foot & Ankle Wellness Center | Rock ‘n’ Kids
Back to School Check-Up
School supplies; check. First day outfit; check. Visit to the dentist; check? At back to school time, you’ve got a lot on your to-do list. But here’s one more important thing: Scheduling the wellness check-ups kids need that can help set them up for academic success. This check-up checklist can help you stay on track.
Give Your Child a Shot Against Illness
Vaccinations are important for kids of all ages, including adolescents. Immunizations can help kids stay healthy by preventing many serious diseases. Here’s a rundown of some of immunizations your school-age child might need.
COVID-19: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends COVID-19 vaccines, including boosters, for everyone 5 years of age and older. The Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine is the only vaccine approved for children ages 5 to 17 years.
Flu shot: Everyone 6 months and older should get a yearly flu shot unless your pediatrician recommends otherwise.
Meningitis: Kids ages 11 or 12 should get one shot of meningococcal conjugate, which protects against potentially life-threatening meningitis. A booster shot is recommended at age 16. Note: Students entering grade 12 in the State of Illinois must be vaccinated against meningitis.
HPV: Kids 11 or 12 should get a two-shot series of the HPV vaccine, which helps protects against cervical and other types of cancer.
Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis (DTaP): Kids ages 4 to 6 years need a 5th dose of this vaccine, which protects against diphtheria, which can cause swelling of the heart and be fatal.
Tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis (Tdap): Kids 11 or 12 years old need one dose of Tdap, which protects against tetanus, a potentially-life threatening illness.
Check with your pediatrician about your child’s immunization schedule and what to do if you need to catch up on any missed doses.
Book a Dentist Appointment
Children should start seeing a dentist regularly by their 1st birthday. If your child hasn’t started seeing a dentist regularly, now’s a great time to start. Regular dental checkups help prevent tooth decay, which can lead to pain, trouble concentrating and other medical issues.
The American Association of Orthodontists also recommends children visit the orthodontist for the first time no later than age 7. An early orthodontist visit probably won’t lead to braces. It’s unusual to put braces on children that young. Seeing the orthodontist early can help head off problems before they get worse. An orthodontist can check to see if your child’s jaws are growing properly and if there’s enough room for your child’s permanent teeth to grow in. If it looks like your child will need orthodontic treatment at some point, an orthodontist can advise you on when and how to begin.
See the Eye Doctor
The American Optometric Association recommends that kids get a comprehensive eye exam before the first grade and every two years after that, or every year, if they wear glasses. Even without vision problems that are detectable by you, the school or your child, it’s important to have a comprehensive eye exam because one in four children has an undiagnosed vision problem. And get this: 80% of learning comes from vision, according to a landmark UCLA study.
While the visual screening test your child takes at his well-child check-up at the pediatrician’s office can be helpful, it can often create a false sense of security by missing significant eye problems, such as farsightedness (not being able to see up close). Farsightedness is the easiest thing to miss in the pediatrician’s office because kids can hide it by focusing extra hard.
Far sightedness can lead to concentration problems when kids are doing homework, taking tests or just trying to read in general. Not being able to see well in general can also lead to behavioral problems. Moreover, with all the screens kids are on these days, studies show that nearsightedness (not being able to see far away) is on the rise. You don’t have to be genetically programmed to be near sighted. You can make yourself become that way. Too much screen time can also make your child’s eyes dry, tired and lead to headaches. To help preserve your child’s vision, the optometrist can talk to your child about visual hygiene, such as taking frequent screen breaks.
To counteract close computer work, remind your child or teen to follow the American Optometric Association’s 20-20-20 rule: Take a 20 second break to view something 20 feet way every 20 minutes. To reduce the glare from overhead fluorescent lights and computer screens, which can lead to headaches and eye strain, ask the eye doctor about applying a no-glare coating to your child’s glasses. And, keep in mind that pre-teens and teens can wear contacts, too. Daily disposables make it easy. Just throw them away at the end of the day.
By Sandra Gordon
Extra Credit: Choosing the Right School, Tutor, and Afterschool Activities
A generation ago, kids’ educational goals were simple: Stay out of trouble, get good grades and graduate. Most parents sent their kids off to the nearest classroom each morning with a wave and a smile. They weren’t worried about whether that school offered the optimal academic environment, an ideal student-teacher ratio, or a robust slate of extracurricular activities.
Today’s parents face a different path, one mired with a multitude of educational options intended to help kids succeed both inside and outside the classroom. From picking the best school to settling on a tutor to which sports and clubs to throw into the mix, the array of available choices is as exciting as it is overwhelming.
Here’s how to sort out a few big ones: Picking a school, whittling down options for after-school enrichment, and determining if your child could benefit from an outside academic coach.
School Cool: Finding the best learning environment for your child
Modern schooling can take place wherever families choose—which makes wading through available options increasingly time-consuming. For some, heading to school each morning might mean pulling up a chair at the kitchen table: A growing number of youth are schooled at home, many via accredited online schools.
Families opting for public school outside the home used to be locked into their neighborhood school. No more: A number of public school districts offer school choice, which means that families are assigned to their neighborhood school but can request a transfer to any school within the district. Once parents determine that they want to go public, they can whittle down their list of options further by looking at factors like school size, paraeducator support, college prep guidance, and other metrics.
If public schools don’t seem like a fit, a growing list of local private schools might be worth a look. Private schools generally offer smaller class sizes and the option for religious instruction but are often less diverse than their public counterparts. And then there’s the private school price tag, which runs $13 to $14K per year on average.
Whether parents choose public, private, or an online academy, here are some questions to ask a school leader:
- What is your school’s ratio of teachers to students?
- How many paraeducators or other support professionals are employed here? Is one assigned to each classroom?
- What percentage of your students are students of color or minorities?
- What is your school’s approach to handing disruptive behavior from students?
- What safety measures are used to secure the school and grounds during the school day?
- For high schools, what types of college prep or scholarship help is available?
- What percentage of the school’s parents volunteer? What types of parent volunteer opportunities are available?
- How much homework can students expect?
- How does the school communicate with parents?
- Does this school offer an anti-bullying curriculum? How is bullying handled?
- What types of accommodations and support are available for students with disabilities, learning differences, extreme food sensitivities, or sensory processing disorders?
- Outside of tuition, what fees or costs can parents expect throughout the school year?
Making the Grade: What About Tutors?
Even if you’ve found a school where your child feels challenged and supported, you may need outside academic help for a particularly difficult subject or phase. Per math tutor Schuyler Dunphy of Seattle Tutoring Services, signs that it’s time to call in a tutor include chronic challenges with teachers or schoolwork that parents haven’t been able to resolve, repeated clashes with a parent over schoolwork and struggles in an advanced subject that parents don’t feel qualified to address.
Ask a tutoring agency what types of references, background checks, or screening questions are used in their hiring process. “If you are hiring a tutor directly, ask questions related to their areas of specialty and how they would handle specific situations that could arise during tutoring sessions,” recommends Dunphy. It’s also vital that students buy in to the tutoring process, notes Dunphy, so be sure to ask kids what they’d like in a tutor and build those questions into your interview.
- Do you have training or credentials related to teaching children in my child’s grade?
- Do you specialize in helping students with ADHD or other learning differences?
- How would you handle working with a child who resists showing their work in math, or doesn’t want to ask questions in class?
- What strategies do you use to keep the subject interesting? How do you keep students focused?
- How would you handle a child who feels discouraged or defeated in a particular subject?
- How do you communicate with a child’s parents regarding progress and expectations?
- What are your fees? (Expect to pay $45 to $85 per hour and up, depending on your tutor’s qualifications, says Dunphy.)
- What is your policy regarding cancellations, rescheduling, or no-shows?
Join the Club: Balancing Extracurricular Pursuits
To raise a kid who excels at school and beyond, think outside the classroom. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, extracurricular activities are linked to better grades and school attendance, and kids who participate are more likely to go to college than those who don’t.
The time required for extracurricular activities can vary—anything from an hour per week for an after-school club to 10 to 12 hours per week or more for a sport—but the payoff can be an increasingly mature, responsible child who learns to manage time wisely. Tamara Jones, parent of a middle-school student in Tacoma, says her daughter started taking more responsibility for her own health, from sleep to nutrition, after participating in two sports last year. “We say a lot of growth in personal responsibility over that year,” Jones says. “She realized she had to get to bed at a certain time to have enough energy to do the things she wanted to do.”
Whether your child leans toward sport, music, art, or a STEM-related extracurricular pursuit, asking the right questions of leaders or coaches can help you prepare for a smoother, less stressful experience.
- What credentials or background do the coaches or leaders have?
- For sports, does the coach have training in concussion protocol?
- What weekly time commitment can we expect?
- Are there summer or off-season expectations for participants?
- Are there fees or costs for equipment, uniforms, or other items participants need?
- How do coaches or leaders communicate with parents?
- What’s the most common complaint from participants and their parents?
- How do you resolve conflicts between participants? What are grounds for removal from the team or club?
- How can parents connect with parents of other participants for information about carpools or other general questions?
And remember that no academic choice is ever permanent. If a chosen school, tutor, or club isn’t a good fit, families can begin their search anew, armed with newfound knowledge about their students’ needs.
By Malia Jacobson
At the Forefront of Medicine
UChicago Medicine | Comer Children’s
All kids deserve exceptional care.
- Pediatric primary care with ready access to specialist expertise
- Safe in-person appointments or secure video visits available
- Extended weekday and Saturday hours in select locations
“Dedicated to transforming the lives of children and adults with developmental disabilities”
Helping Hand (HH) is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to transforming the lives of children and adults with developmental disabilities in Chicagoland communities. We offer a wide range of person-centered, therapeutic programs and services. Our programs and services include a School for Children with Intellectual Disabilities, Employment Services, Outpatient Programs, High School Transition services, Community Living (CILA), and Community Day Programs for adults. Located at 9649 W. 55th Street, Countryside, Illinois 60525. For more information, call (708) 352-3580 or visit www.helpinghand-il.org.
Let It Be Us
“Changing the landscape of foster care and adoption”
Let It Be Us is dedicated to changing the landscape of foster care and adoption in Illinois for the over 22,000 children in foster care. We envision a future in which our most vulnerable children have the opportunities and resources they need, which can best be met by belonging in a family. Let It Be Us recruits foster parents through educational events and helps children find loving families through our proprietary database of over 750 licensed foster homes. Learn more at www.letitbeus.org.
SunCloud Health offers integrated outpatient and residential programs in Northbrook, Naperville and Chicago (Lincoln Park) and is one of the nation’s most trusted names in treating substance use disorders, eating disorders, mood disorders and related trauma for adolescents and adults. When it comes to making strides toward emotional healing, overcoming substance use and achieving better mental health you want the level of comprehensive, intensive and compassionate care that SunCloud Health provides. Visit a location in Naperville, Northbrook or Chicago. Contact: email@example.com or 1-847-545-0210. www.suncloudhealth.com.
Great Lakes Volleyball Center
2022-2023 Sprots Performanc Boy’s Volleyball NATIONAL PROGRAM HIGH SCHOOL TRYOUTS – Sunday, August 28th, 2022. The Great Lakes Center is located at 579 N. Oakhurst Drive, Aurora, IL. 60502 . You do not want to miss our World Class Training with “America’s #1 Summer Volleyball Camp Program” Don’t forget to ask about our site camps where we come to you! For more information call 630-898-6400 or visit www.greatlakescenter.com/camps/ FB: Sports Performance Volleyball