It may seem like summer just started, but school bells will soon be ringing once again. Before the kids hit the classrooms, UAB’s News You Can Use will present ways to save money when it comes to tackling those school supply lists. Also, we will break down the importance of a children’s diet and sleep patterns on success in school. These stories and more are coming soon to help make this year the best it can be.
School’s back and with it comes the need to buckle down to study. All work and no play, though, can dull the senses, and University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) experts recommend after-school play to help kids blow off steam and explore their creative side.
“Studies show that extracurricular activity has positive associations correlated to school attachment, school completion/graduation and grade-point average,” said Sandra Sims, Ph.D., associate professor of human studies in the UAB School of Education.
“It has a positive effect on children and can increase self-confidence, promote responsibility, encourage kids to work as a team, provide an opportunity for new friendships and plant the seed for a life-long hobby or future career,” said Kimberly Kirklin, director of ArtPlay, the education and outreach initiative of UAB’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center.
There are many options from which to choose — team sports to ballet — with benefits aplenty.
“Besides the health benefits of exercise, research shows that physical activity can enhance mental clarity through the increase of blood flow and oxygen to the brain and improve academic achievement,” Sims said.
Experts suggest these things to consider when selecting activities:
Getting back on the bus and into the classroom can make children anxious for many reasons, but experts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) say good communication can help parents and caregivers ease back-to-school fears.
“Children going into first, sixth or ninth grades often have the most anxiety leading into the new school year because they likely are entering a new school,” says Larry Tyson, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Human Studies and coordinator for the Counselor Education program.
“When you are the new kid on the block, not knowing many people can make you self-conscious about how you will fit in,” said Tyson, who spent 15 years as a middle- and high-school counselor. “These transition years are big for students figuring out how they will initially fit into this big-school setting.”
Tyson suggested forming a partnership with the school counselor, no matter the student’s age.
“Parents should see counselors as child advocates – as their liaison in the school when something isn’t working the way it should or they want,” Tyson explained. “My advice is to not be a stranger; make an appointment once or twice a year, and let the people at the school see and hear from you. You don’t have to have your child with you. This will help.”
As a new school year approaches, an estimated 55 million children will return to classrooms, and some of them bring a diagnosis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with them. For teachers and parents of a child with ADHD, the beginning of school leads to new challenges and opportunities for learning.
“ADHD is a common neurobehavioral disorder that affects 6 percent of school-age children,” said Laura Montgomery-Barefield, M.D., associate professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). “As children and teens return to class, it is important to reassess the need for new strategies at home and school.”
ADHD is usually first diagnosed in childhood and often lasts into adulthood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Children with ADHD may have trouble paying attention or controlling impulsive behaviors without regard to consequences, or they may be overly active. The CDC says the reported rate of ADHD in Alabama is among the highest in the nation, and that the rate of diagnosis nationwide increased by 22 percent between 2003 and 2007.
Montgomery-Barefield suggests that parents and teachers should work together to create an ADHD-friendly study environment at both home and school. This can include introducing good study skills and time management techniques.
Adults often hear what they should be doing to improve their health. But many of these known wellness behaviors are important for kids, too, and two University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) experts say school success depends on making the right choices.
Health habits, such as eating and sleep patterns, are linked to academic success, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Your brain can’t work if you’re not consuming enough calories, and in general that’s not a problem,” explained Krista Casazza, Ph.D., R.D., assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition Sciences. “But when kids go to school without eating breakfast, their cognitive function can be affected.”
Casazza suggests kids start the day with fruits, proteins and whole grains. Avoid sugary cereals because they cause a sugar high, then a crash.
“A balanced breakfast will fuel the body for a long period and help sustain their attention level through lunch, when they need to eat well again,” Casazza said. “This will hold them until dinner, and they won’t snack ravenously after school.”
If the kids do need to eat something prior to dinner, consider these options:
Slowly but surely, “Back to School” displays are popping up in stores. But if back to school means back to budget woes, one University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) personal finance expert has tips to help stretch a dollar.
Adding up all the costs – supplies, clothes, shoes and electronics – highlights how expensive it can be to go to school. According to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) 2013 Back-to-School Survey, families with school-age children will spend an average $634.78. Total spending on back-to-school is expected to reach $26.7 billion.
While the NRF said that spending is slightly down from last year, UAB School of Business Instructor Elizabeth Turnbull, M.B.A., explained that planning and preparation can help further reduce money spent.
“When the list of required supplies comes in from teachers, try calling a parent whose child recently graduated that grade,” Turnbull suggested. “Often they will be able to share if their child used all items from day one of the school year, or if some can be purchased later on.”