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a twin cities south of the river lifestyle journal

FŌcús

Fall 2011

on parenting & education

Preventing bullying Intergenerational daycare Parent’s guide to learning The Garage, teen music venue & more


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A message from Contents the editor Welcome to FOCUS, a quarterly magazine, published by ECM Specialty Publications. This edition of FOCUS takes a close look at parenting and educating children, just in time to help you and your child get off on the right foot for the coming school year. Our feature article focuses on the potentially devastating affects of bullying, which unfortunately is a hot topic right now for many parents and educators. Aaron Vehling, a writer with Thisweek Newspapers, offers a disturbing but informative piece on the subject. You’ll find an article about an innovative program on the Ebenezer Ridges campus in Burnsville. Seniors and children spend time together daily as part of an intergenerational program that bridges the generation gap. Parents should also check out the information from area orthodontists regarding children’s braces. You’ll learn that orthodontists recommend children receive their first orthodontic screening by the age of seven. If you are the parent of an adolescent or teenager, you’ll want to read the article by Mark Miller about The Garage, a local teen community center. He describes how kids are finding a safe and accepting environment regardless of their physical appearance, beliefs, religion, or sexual orientation. Parents with a child who is struggling in school will want to read, “A Parent’s Guide to Learning”. This article shares information about ways to help your child succeed in school. You’ll read about a variety of learning options, including tutoring, brain training, and vision therapy. Coming in November The winter holiday edition of FOCUS will be published in November, just in time to help you plan your winter get-away, decorate for the holidays, and find some unique gift ideas from local businesses. For information about becoming an advertiser please call 952-846-2040 or email ginny.lee@ ecm-inc.com. FOCUS is delivered to homes in the south-of-the-river area and is also available by subscription for $32 per year.

4

Bullying prevention is a must, but how do you do it? Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom discusses the effects of bullying

10 Intergenerational Learning at Ebenezer Ridges

Bridging the generation gap between seniors and children

12 A Parent’s Guide to Learning

Getting help for a child who is struggling in school

20  Train-Track Braces No More

What you need to know about orthodontics for your child

22 T he Garage Nation: All Different, All Equal

Providing kids a healthy place to learn, grow, and have fun

FŌcús PUBLISHER ECM Specialty Publications 12180 County Road 11 Burnsville, MN 55337 952-846-2040 Managing Editor Ginny Lee Contributing Writers Ginny Lee Mark Miller Aaron Vehling Graphic Design Jeff Remme Advertising Sales Kristine Richter Mary Jo Sirek Jesse Schmidt Editor’s Assistant Lisa Miller

Focus magazine is a quarterly publication of ECM Specialty Publications. For more information regarding subscription or advertising rates, contact Ginny Lee at 952-846-2040 or ginny.lee@ecm-inc.com.

Fall 2011 3


Bullying prevention is a must, but how do you do it? BY A.M. VEHLING In the popular 1985 film Back to the Future, amid a science-fiction story about time travel, there exists a number of exchanges meant to remind people of their high school experience – or one aspect of it, anyway. Tough guy Biff Tannen pushes George McFly around. Sometimes he uses a series of escalating physical encounters. Other times, the mere threat of Tannen’s violence keeps McFly from even entering the local soda fountain, which is popular with teens all over town. When McFly tries to pursue a girl with which he is infatuated, there comes Tannen to stand in the way. This is a fictional film, but because such movies take their cues from the culture that makes them, it is meant to draw the viewer into an overall act of reminiscing about his or her childhood. Society generally sees bullying 4 Focus Magazine

as something that everyone endures. We take it for granted that bullying builds character and prepares children to be tougher adults. But for Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom, this whole idea is just plain wrong. “The sad reality is that 80 percent of parents in society don’t see it as a concern,” Backstrom said. “It should be an issue of concern for every parent.” In Back to the Future, Tannen’s bullying of McFly continues to adulthood, when both men work together. Tannen uses namecalling and other threats to ensure that McFly does Tannen’s work for him. But in real life, Backstrom said, “bullying can escalate. It’s an early form of aggressive, violent behavior.” Backstrom is at the forefront of this as the Dakota County Attorney, who charges and prosecutes crimes for which the people

are arrested by their local law enforcement agency. He considers his presentations on bullying with elementary school kids to be one of the most important parts of his job. “Preventing crime is more important, or at least as important, as prosecuting crime,” he said. Backstrom has spoken to more than 15,000 young people in Dakota County in the past seven years. He usually talks to kids in fourth and fifth grades. But for Backstrom, who grew up in Duluth, the issue is not just professional. It is also personal. “I was a very shy young man growing up,” he said. Partially because of that, he was bullied throughout elementary school. “I didn’t have a lot of friends growing Bullying continued on page 5


Bullying from page 4 up. I walked home from school by myself for six blocks. Bullies would knock my books out of my hands or push me down. It’s scary when you can’t walk home safely.” Backstrom said because he was shy he could not muster up the courage to talk about the bullying with anyone, particularly teachers. One experience was “pretty scary.” He says, “I think I was in the fourth or fifth grade at the time. They stole my bicycle one time when I was at the school playground.” If one were to transpose these acts onto adults, they would be criminal offenses. This underscores some of Backstrom’s points. He said studies have shown 60 percent of bullies have a criminal record by the time they are 20 years old. When asked why he talks to elementary school students instead of older ones, Backstrom extended the prevention theme. “Bullying happens to 75 percent of kids at one point in their lives,” Backstrom said. “The problem is pervasive. It is estimated that nearly one in every six middle school students is regularly harassed or attacked by a bully. As many as 160,000 children miss school every day in America out of fear of bullying.”

So by instilling positive values in kids, Backstrom is aiming to not only improve the childhoods of Dakota County residents but he is also working to reduce crime and improve the quality of life overall.

Set on fire

fire outside of school because I had short hair,” Rogers said. “The bullying was horrific.” Rogers had also been bullied at schools she attended in Nevada and in Texas, Elfring said. “We thought it would end when we moved back to Minnesota,” he said.

Heather Rogers is a 2011 graduate of the Lakeville Area Public Schools’ Area Learning Center (ALC). She speaks with the type of enthusiasm and hope that defines youth, but peppered throughout her demeanor is someone with a soul much older than 18. Rogers has been through a lot of bullying to stand tall like she does today. Rogers and her grandfather, Larry Elfring, talked about her experience with bullying at a recent school board meeting. She is in some ways a case study of why bullying should not be ignored - not by parents, teachers or institutions. Rogers and her grandfather moved to Minnesota from Texas after her grandmother died. She started out attending John F. Kennedy Elementary and moved on to McGuire Middle School. Fear, assault and stress comprised the bulk of her time in those schools. “I was set on

After the bullying became too much - in addition to more violent acts such as the fire, Rogers endured name-calling and pushing and shoving as well - McGuire administration recommended Rogers attend the ALC. Rogers Bullying continued on page 6

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Fall 2011 5


Bullying from page 5 and Elfring were quite unsure about Rogers attending the ALC, given the “island of misfit toys” stigma attached to those types of schools. But the decision turned out to mean personal and academic success for Rogers and some piece of mind for Elfring. “(The teachers at the ALC) helped me get back on track,” Rogers said. “I learned I can be someone - I was going to be who I wanted to be.” Some of the trick, Rogers said, was that at the ALC there simply was no tolerance for bullying. “Bullying just didn’t happen,” she said. “People were so comfortable with themselves that bullying just didn’t happen.” Elfring noticed this as well. He said John Cates and Sue Zapf, two teachers at the ALC, along with ALC Director Cliff Skagan helped ensure a safe environment. “Some girl came from one of the other schools and started in on Heather,” Elfring said. “Cliff put an end to it. If John, Sue and Cliff can do it, why can’t the rest of (the staff in the district)?” Cates, Zapf and Skagan were unavailable for comment on specifics by the time this story went to press, but Zapf was at the meeting and responded to the praise with modesty. “I work with a great team of people,” Zapf said. And as for the students, “I work with some exceptional kids.” Now that Rogers has earned her high school diploma, she has moved on to her next step: the military. She is currently in basic training. When summing up her experiences, Rogers’

message to the school board was simple: “Don’t think that this (bullying) doesn’t exist, because it really does and it’s terrible.” Rogers experienced bullying with boys and girls, which demonstrates the complex dynamics at play in these situations. “We often think of bullies as mean and aggressive boys,” Backstrom said, “and while boys who bully may outnumber girls and be more physical in their negative behavior, girls who bully others cause significant trauma as well.” The bullying is often not as violent as with boys, he said, but the effect has its own implications. “With girls, the harm is often done through more covert forms

of aggression, such as social exclusion or ostracization, manipulation and rumor spreading,” Backstrom said. “These negative actions can be very hurtful to young women.” It can read like a stereotype, but cultural mores largely dictate this. Backstrom said that according to Laura Hess, a researcher at Purdue University, the consequences of being disruptive and aggressive are much more negative for girls than boys. So the likely outcome is that they will use more covert aggression.

Online harassment

Bullying has traditionally been an in-person affair, but the rapidly expanding social media environment has provided not only an efficient way to communicate across boundaries, it has also opened the floodgates for bullying along those same channels. “Someone may not say something to someone in person,” Backstrom said, “but they’ll put it in writing and press the ‘send’ button.” This could manifest as someone posting something crude on someone else’s Facebook wall. Or maybe one person sends another a series of threatening text messages. The Journal of the American Medical Association has reported that nearly 20 percent of students in the United States are bullied per semester. Further shattering the stereotype of bullying as primarily a realm for boys, the Cyberbullying Research Center has indicated that girls are more likely to bully or do the bullying online. They are also more likely to bully for longer periods of time. Bullying continued on page 8

6 Focus Magazine


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FŌcús Focus is a quarterly magazine dedicated to our communities south of the river. Each issue will examine a topic we hope will be of interest to you.

a twin cities south of the river lifestyle journal

FŌcús

Fall 2011

on parenting & education

Articles will include an in-depth look at a variety of topics as well as interviews with local residents that bring the topic into focus locally. We hope you enjoy our new magazine and find it to be a valuable resource to you, your family and neighbors. For upcoming topics or to leave feedback, please visit us at: facebook.com/focus.twincities or email: ginny.lee@ecm-inc.com

Fall 2011 7


Bullying from page 6 What makes “cyber bullying” even more sinister is the cloak of relative anonymity the internet provides offenders. “The aura of secrecy can make the cyber bully far worse than the face-to-face one,” Backstrom said. So when would someone experience this cyber bullying? It can happen via email, Facebook, Twitter, chat rooms, and even cell phone texts. There is a tendency to not take cyber bullying seriously because of its digital nature, but that is not the case at all. “These threats can be crimes,” Backstrom said. “It can be

! Bullying Statistics in Adolescents and Teens • 33% of teens report being bullied at school • About one-third of victims report bullying to someone at school • 20% have been made fun of by a bully • 18% have had rumors or gossip spread about them • 11% have been physically bullied • 6% have been threatened • 5% have been excluded from activities they wanted to participate in • 4% have been coerced into something they did not want to do • 4% have had their personal belongings destroyed by bullies

Cyber Bullying • Over half have been bullied online • More than 1 in 3 have experienced cyber-threats online • Over 25% have been bullied repeatedly through cell phones or the Internet • Well over half do not tell their parents about cyber bullying

How to handle bullying • Do not tell a child to fight back • Do not expect kids to work it out on their own • Adults should always intervene • Get the school involved

harassment to send repeated unwanted messages to someone.” It is estimated that 42 percent of kids have been bullied online, Backstrom said. Adding to that, an estimated 35 percent of kids have been threatened while online, if not outright bullied on a consistent basis.

Protection

Bullying in all its forms has captured the attention of the Minnesota Legislature. A few years ago it passed a law requiring school districts to “adopt a written policy prohibiting intimidation and bullying of any student. The policy shall address intimidation and bullying in all forms, including but not limited to, electronic forms and forms involving Internet use.” While the Legislature requires a policy on bullying, it does not actually define bullying, according to Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan school district (ISD 196) lawyer Jill Coyle. It also does not give any guidance about the jurisdiction of the district when it comes to bullying. “For example,” Coyle wrote, “the law requires schools to address bullying that occurs on the Internet, but what if that occurs at home on a private Facebook page and not at school? Do school districts still have the responsibility to stop it?” To put it another way: If Rogers, the girl bullied in Lakeville, experienced only cyber bullying would the ALC even have the ability to do much about it?

In ISD 196, the administration and school board have crafted some policies that attempt to take into account both the ambiguity of the law and the complexities of bullying. “As for the definition of bullying, it seems to be something of a ‘you know it when you see it’ sort of phenomenon,” Coyle said. District 196’s policy is broad enough to capture all the different types of bullying - from verbal to physical to that of the cyber variety. “For example, our policy prohibits ‘verbal abuse,’ which specifically prohibits language that is ‘discriminatory, abusive, bullying, threatening or obscene,’” Coyle said. Moving further on the bullying spectrum, the district’s policy also prohibits “fighting, assault, harassment, damage of property, theft, hazing, terroristic threats and technology-related misconduct.” Using its criteria, District 196 staff are able to help attempt put a stop to bullying when they learn about it. In turn, Coyle said, all staff members carry the responsibility to report serious forms of student misconduct to the administration. But when that form of harassment involves Facebook accounts created and owned by people off school property, then what can the district do? “In general,” Coyle said, “a school only has the authority to discipline students for conduct that has a nexus to school (a clear connection to school and Bullying continued on page 18

8 Focus Magazine


Enrollment is still available for District 196 schools this fall! Independent School District 196 is a state and nationally recognized E-12 public school district serving all or parts of the southern Twin Cities’ communities of Rosemount, Apple Valley, Eagan, Burnsville, Coates, Inver Grove Heights, Lakeville and Empire and Vermillion townships. District 196 has long been a district of choice for families moving to the area due to its history of high student achievement, quality staff and curriculum, and support received from parents and others in the communities it serves. Consider the following indicators of choice: • Two of the communities District 196 serves – Eagan and Apple Valley – were ranked 15th and 20th, respectively, on

Money magazine’s August 2010 list of America’s Best Places to Live. Quality of education was one of the main criteria used for ranking cities with population over 50,000. • Local real estate listings often highlight “District 196 schools!” among a home’s primary selling features. Strong public schools create demand for homes and help maintain higher property values. • Almost 9 of every 10 school-age children who live in District 196 attend District 196 schools. The district’s 88 percent “capture rate” is considered to be among the highest in the state, a former state demographer noted.

Up until just a few years ago, District 196 limited open enrollment transfers into the district because enrollment was still growing. District enrollment stopped growing in 2004 and has remained stable ever since, decreasing by less than 1 percent per year. With stable enrollment and space available, District 196 welcomes students who want to open enroll. Enrollment applications are still being accepted for the start of school this fall. For more information about the district or any of its schools, go to www.District196.org. For information on how to enroll your child, contact Student Information at 651-4237644 or email Kim.Reis@District196.org. PAID ADVERTISEMENT

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Fall Fall2011 2011 # 9


Intergenerational learning at Ebenezer Ridges BY GINNY LEE

As you enter the Ebenezer Ridges campus, you know immediately something different is going on here. A preschooler is seen standing next to a senior in a wheel chair. They exchange smiles and the little one reaches up to put her small hand over the older woman’s frail hand in a protective way.

Hilligan, Campus Administrator, agrees and says, “Our focus is not primarily on the program or the activities, but rather we focus on building relationships.” Children and seniors all come out winners as participants ranging in age from six weeks to 106 years share time together daily.

Seniors and children who spend time together each day are part of an innovative intergenerational program found on the Ebenezer Ridges campus in Burnsville. Since 2002 Ebenezer Ridges has been bridging the generation gap and allowing children and seniors to form bonds that transcend differences in age and ability.

The Ebenezer Ridges campus is an intergenerational shared-site program, where up to 52 children from the child care center and older adults from four entities (skilled nursing, assisted living, adult day center, and independent senior housing) receive services at the same site.

Andrea Lewandoski, Intergenerational Program Coordinator says, “We provide opportunities for seniors and children to explore creativity and build relationships while improving the physical and mental health of seniors and promoting early childhood development.” However, it appears that most participants would say they are just having fun. Erin 10 Focus Magazine

Intergenerational program coordinator Lewandoski says, “At Ebenezer, we strive to help older adults learn, grow, become empowered and experience profound happiness in their later years while helping children grow and learn through their most impressionable early years.” She says children learn respect for the elderly and compassion for their physical limitations. Intergenerational continued on page 11


Intergenerational from page 10 Seniors maintain self-worth by sharing their lives and experiences. Director of Child Care, Jody Schumann, emphasizes the program “directly meets seniors’ needs to nurture, teach, and leave a legacy while sharing in unique experiences with the children at our shared site.” She said you can see it in the nursery, where adoring ‘grandmas’ rock sleeping infants. And you can hear it in the voice of an elderly man as he reads wide-eyed toddlers a story.” Lewandoski joins in to say, “It’s the unplanned activities that create the most magic at Ebenezer, like when a story is shared or when a child joins a senior friend for a walk around the campus. As they help each other and learn from one another, an unmistakable bond has formed that rises above differences in age and ability.” Campus Administrator Hilligan emphasizes that seniors living on campus find a sense of purpose and are encouraged to teach and share their life experiences. Hilligan says, “Ebenezer is a place to live instead of a place to die. The intergenerational program helps remove the stigma about

nursing homes by bringing generations together.” She says the kids give the seniors something to talk about and someone to be with that is not related to aging. Child care director Schumann says the benefits for the children include using manners and understanding and being exposed to older adults that might have a disability or may use special equipment such as a wheelchair, cane, walker, or hearing aids. She says, “The children don’t see the disability as a concern, but more of something they just expect.” Schumann added, “I think having that level of exposure makes them more flexible and understanding.” In June, Ebenezer Ridges was named as one of the five finalists for a $100,000 prize from the Eisner Foundation. As a result of the program’s success, the Eisner Foundation has singled it out as one of the best in the nation. In an online poll, Ebenezer was the top choice with more than 11,000 votes. Regardless of whether Ebenezer Ridges goes on to win the $100,000 prize, it seems the seniors and the children have both already won a great deal.

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A parent’s guide to learning Getting help for a child who is struggling in school BY GINNY LEE It has been estimated that 1 out of 4 children in the United States has some sort of learning problem. As many as 1 million children, ages 6 through 21, have some form of learning disability and receive special education in school. If you are the parent of a child who is having learning or behavioral difficulties, you may be facing some difficult choices.

Parents spend approximately $8 billion a year on tutors in the United States. Your child’s school may suggest an evaluation for learning disabilities. As you go through the process, you may find yourself inundated with a barrage of opinions and recommendations

from teachers, pediatricians, psychologists, specialists, and therapists. If you feel like you’re swimming in an alphabet soup of children’s learning disabilities, you’re not alone. Terms like ADD, ADHD, PDD-NOS, autism, or Asperger’s syndrome may find their way into your daily conversations. Most parents can’t stand-by and do nothing while their child struggles in school or in developing friendships, but the prospect of having a child ‘labeled’ with a learning disorder is a difficult step to take. Even more frightening may be the notion of putting a child on psychiatric medications. Not all children who struggle in school have learning disabilities. Some children may just need some help building better study

skills, habits, and attitudes towards learning. The first step is to have an assessment completed by a professional. Your school or pediatrician may have recommendations how to get started with testing. Not all learning ‘difficulties’ are learning ‘disabilities’. Children develop at different rates, and sometimes what seems to be a learning disability may resolve as the child matures. Locating and relying on a professional who can help you and your child find answers is critical.

Tutoring

Parents spend approximately $8 billion a year on tutors in the United States. About $1 billion will be spent by the federal government to pay for tutoring children as part of the “No Child Left Behind” Act passed by Congress in 2002. How does a parent know if a child will benefit by working with a tutor? If your child continually has failing grades, refuses to do homework, or is being disruptive in the classroom, you may want to consider a tutor. The purpose of tutoring is to speed up the learning process, make up the skills the child has lost, and get him/her back up to the appropriate instructional level. There are a number of resources available to help you find a suitable tutor. You can network with friends, visit the public library, search web sites or the yellow pages. When interviewing a prospective tutor, a parent should ask how many years of experience the tutor has and if they specialize in a specific subject or area of concern. Tutors may have different approaches to helping children learn and develop to their full potential, but understanding how they plan to engage and monitor a child’s progress may be the key to how successful a tutor may be with your child. You will also want to determine what age range the tutor generally works with. According to Joel Bisser, a private tutor from Farmington, “If a student does not enjoy reading, I will tap into his/her interests by finding reading selections that they will enjoy or inspire them to just read.” He focuses on grades 9 through 12 and college students. Guide continued on page 13

12 Focus Magazine


Bisser says his strengths lie in assisting students to identify and clarify their educational objectives and life paths. “My approach inspires students, empowering them to take responsibility for their own education and challenging them to transform their lives and the lives of others,” says Bissser. “This includes not only academic activities, but also field trips like canoeing and community service projects.” He feels such opportunities build self-confidence and self-esteem in the student, helping them achieve success in higher education and in life. Bisser’s credentials include a Bachelor of Arts in English with a writing emphasis and a minor in creating writing, as well as a Master of Arts in Education. With over 30 years of experience in tutoring, one of the largest providers of tutoring services is Sylvan Learning Center. Jessica Way, with the Sylvan Learning Center in Burnsville, says they tailor individualized learning plans for students of all ages and skill levels. They also provide homework support. When asked about the technology used at Sylvan, Way said, “Sylvan teachers use state-of-the-art tablet computers to deliver engaging and interactive reading and math instruction. We also have online math help that is free to schools and available to families for a nominal monthly fee.” For students approaching college entrance exams, Sylvan offers group classes, online classes, or one-on-one instruction to help your child prepare. Some parents find that one subject is especially challenging for their child, and often it is math. Parents who have heard their child say, “I hate math,” may want to talk with Mark Grotte at Mathnasium, with centers located in Lakeville and Savage. He emphasizes that children don’t hate math. They hate being confused by math. Grotte says, “Mathnasium specializes in math education. We perform comprehensive assessments and work specifically on the fundamentals the students haven’t mastered.” One unique aspect of Mathnasium is that their centers offer drop-in help; there are no hard scheduled appointments for math instruction. Grotte also stated “multiple independent studies carried out by EyeCues Education Systems since 2004 have found Guide continued on page 14

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Guide from page 13 Mathnasium to be effective 100 percent of the time, increasing student performance on standards-based tests in 20 sessions or fewer.” As the world’s largest after-school math and reading enrichment program, the Kumon Math and Reading Center located in Burnsville, believes it’s never too early to get started with a child’s education. That’s why they’ve designed Junior Kumon, a program for students three to five years of age. With

more focused learning environments, Junior Kumon helps children build the fundamental skills necessary to succeed throughout their education experience. Laura Mosset, owner and instructor at the Burnsville location, says “Junior Kumon students begin to develop their own self-confidence and a passion for learning.” When asked how their services differ from other types of learning centers, Mossett replied that Kumon is not a quick-fix program. She says, “While traditional tutors attempt to help a student pass an upcoming test or get through a difficult class, Kumon goes back

and fixes the problem. We want students to have a strong foundation with mastery of the basics, so that they can succeed independently in their future classes.” Mossett pointed out that many people tend to think about learning centers as places that provide remedial help for struggling students; however, she says that while many students initially come to Kumon for extra help in school, the majority of their students are kids who work above grade level and are there to be challenged.

Brain Training

Relatively new on the scene, LearningRx has been offering an alternative to traditional tutoring methods since 2002. Richard Frieder, owner of LearningRx Centers in Savage and Eagan, says, “LearningRx is a brain-training center that focuses on strengthening the underlying skills students need to be successful. Rather than simply re-teaching academic content (like tutoring), LearningRx identifies the root cause of the learning struggle and strengthens these skills Guide continued on page 15 14 Focus Magazine


Guide from page 14 enabling students to excel academically”. Frieder continued, “We strengthen skills like attention, long and short-term memory, logic and reasoning, processing speed, auditory processing and phonemic awareness.” When asked how their services differ from other types of learning centers, Frieder replied, “LearningRx is significantly different from traditional tutoring as our focus is to get to the root issue causing the struggle rather than simply treating the symptom. We are not simply training academics and re-teaching information via tutoring, but rather giving students the skills they need to handle the academics so they don’t need tutoring in the future. The underlying cognitive skills we train are required not only for academic success, but life skills.” Frieder also clarified that although there are similarities between brain training and vision therapy (addressed later in this article), there are significant differences. Frieder states, “If the child’s only issue is visual, then visual processing will be a huge help. However, at least two-thirds of typical learning struggles are due to auditor issues rather than visual

issues.” According to Frieder, “There is about a 15% overlap between what we do and vision therapy. Vision therapy focuses on visual skills, but does not address auditory processing (critical for reading), phonemic awareness (the ability to decode and sound out words), attention, logic and reasoning, or long and short-term memory.” Although brain training is still a hotly debated issue in the education arena, several independent studies support the idea of brain training. A recently released study by the University of Michigan, reports that children who’ve had memory training have better abstract reasoning and solve problems much better than kids who haven’t. Cognitive scientists consider working memory a key component of intelligence. They have long debated whether strengthening shortterm memory capacity will boost a person’s overall intellectual function, and will do so even after the training sessions are over. According to this new research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, strengthening short-term memory does indeed improve a person’s overall intellectual function.

Vision Therapy

In your search for answers regarding a child’s struggles to keep up in school, you may come across the term ‘vision therapy’ as an option for improving your child’s ability to learn and develop. Vision therapy is not to be confused with any self-directed selfhelp program of eye exercises which may be marketed to the public. In-office vision therapy is supervised by optometric vision care professionals. The National Network of Optometrists defines vision therapy as a type of physical therapy Guide continued on page 16

Train The Brain. Open Your Mind. Elle learned to read and discovered a world of meaning and possibility. As early as kindergarten, Elle struggled with reading and homework. School testing revealed she possessed a high IQ, but her low academic performance indicated a learning disability. Despite special education and tutoring, Elle continued to fall behind. But thanks to a few months of LearningRx training, Elle strengthened the specific auditory and visual processing skills she needed help with most. Now, Elle’s reading ability exceeds expectations and she has tested out of special education services. She’s finishing chapter books and enjoys reading the world around her—including street signs and instructions for board games! What’s more, Elle’s LearningRx trainer motivated and inspired her to work hard and celebrate her achievements. Elle’s mom says, “It’s been amazing to see how much this has improved her life. We are excited to see Elle’s future unfold!”

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Guide from page 15 for the eyes and brain. Their web site states, “It can be a highly effective non-surgical treatment for many common visual problems such as lazy eye, crossed eyes, double vision, convergence insufficiency and some reading and learning disabilities.” The American Optometric Association states that vision therapy is effective in the treatment of physiological neuromuscular and perceptual dysfunctions of the vision system.”

Optometrists who specialize in vision therapy believe that it can be beneficial in some children suffering from reading problems and learning disabilities. Critics concede that vision therapy may help correct certain vision disorders, but they say no scientific evidence exists that proves vision therapy can correct the developmental and neurological conditions that cause many reading problems and learning disorders. According to Dr. Lori Mowbray, an optometrist with the Minnesota Vision Therapy Center,

“There have been more studies done to show the efficacy of vision therapy than any medical procedure that is used today. However, there has been a lot of semantics played with when interpreting ‘scientific’ as in ‘scientific studies’.” Mowbray says, “MDs especially like to interpret ‘scientific study’ to mean either done by an MD, rather than any other professional, or interpret it to include only double-blind studies. Since a double-blind study requires both participants (administrator and receiver of the treatment) to not know what they are administering or receiving, double-blind studies cannot be performed on a procedure that involves professional knowledge to administer. Therefore, no surgery or therapies can be proven with double-blind studies without getting inaccurate results and/or imperiling the receiver.” Mowbray concludes, “If you are going on the basis of the study being done in an accepted scientific manner, there are hundreds of studies showing the efficacy of vision therapy. “ Dr. Mowbray founded Minnesota Vision Therapy Center in 1995 and it remains one of the largest vision therapy clinics in the nation. It has offices in Bloomington, Maple Grove and Mankato. She defines vision therapy as “a series of activities whereby an individual trains the brain to give the eye muscles the correct information to direct them to most efficiently bring information in from the eyes to the brain.” She goes on to say, “This involves working with tracking, eye-teaming, and focusing activities. Good vision therapy programs also work with visual information processing and visual perceptual activities working on such things as directionality, visual memory, and visualization.” Mowbray adds, “The most advanced vision therapy programs additionally work with visual learning activities which teach the individual how to use the new visual skills to read, write, do math, organize, and other life skills that can suffer when functional visual problems are present.” McDonald Eye Care Associates, located in Lakeville, offers primary eye care services as well as vision therapy. Dr. Anthony McDonald, optometrist and owner, has been trained in sports vision and vision therapy through the Baltimore Academy of Behavioral Optometry. He and his staff have integrated Dr. McDonald’s appreciation Guide continued on page 17

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Guide from page 16 for sports, learning, and his desire to see children succeed into their practice. Dean Bruemmer, a vision therapist working under the direction of Dr. McDonald for the past 9 years says “vision is more than just seeing 20/20.” According to Bruemmer, over 90% of the information we process is visual. A person may have 20/20 vision but may not have developed the ability to

A concern for many parents will be cost and whether vision therapy is covered by insurance. interpret, identify, or understand what is being seen. Bruemmer states that success in learning is directly linked to good vision. “In fact,” he says, “80% of all learning is done visually.” When asked how the need for vision therapy is diagnosed, Bruemmer explained that initially, a complete medical eye examination is performed by an

optometrist. If during the course of the exam, the doctor determines a need, a vision efficiency evaluation is performed by a behavioral optometrist. He also says that a patient may be experiencing symptoms such as headaches, skipping lines or losing place while reading. A concern for many parents will be cost and whether vision therapy is covered by insurance. Bruemmer stated that about 85% of McDonald Eye Care Associates’ case load has some sort of coverage for vision therapy. Because McDonald Eye Care Associates offers primary eyecare services, they can provide in-network coverage for most major medical insurance companies. Parents should contact their insurance provider and determine exactly what their coverage will be for vision therapy services. While researching vision therapy on the internet, parents should always consider the source of claims and information. Although vision therapy is a well-established field within the optometric profession, differences of opinion definitely exist concerning some of the claims of success. A wealth of testimonials by parents and optometrists are readily available on

internet sites and certainly these success stories provide good reasons for parents to explore whether a child might benefit from vision therapy.

The Parent’s Role

As you navigate through your search for answers, remember not to neglect what you as a parent need for yourself. Talk with parents who may have children with similar issues and keep gathering information. Keep asking questions. And, if the person you sought help from isn’t helpful, find somebody else. These are complex and changing fields and each child needs to be recognized as a unique, creative individual. As a parent, become informed, check out local resources, and listen to what the professionals recommend. However, never underestimate your role because you as the parent know your child best. Although you should listen to the advice and recommendations of professionals, also trust yourself. You are your child’s best advocate.

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Bullying from page 8 an effect on it). For that reason, conduct that occurs in the community and not in the schools typically does not result in school-based discipline. “On the other hand, if bullying starts in the evening on a personal computer, but continues into the school day, then school staff can impose discipline,” Coyle stated. So there are protections in place for youth under the siege of bullies, whether the problem is a physical confrontation, harmful words or digital harassment.

Solutions

So, there are legal protections in place. Districts have policies to address bullying. And, law enforcement officials recognize bullying’s ability to lead to society-corrupting crimes. But what can people really do about it? Backstrom said it all starts with people having the courage to talk about it. If a kid is being bullied, he said, he or she needs to tell a trusted authority figure. “I tell the kids I talk to that they need to make sure to tell someone about it (bullying),” he said. “Don’t keep it inside.” If they witness other kids getting bullied, Backstrom said he tells his student audiences, then “they need to stand up and do the right thing. I tell them if other kids are being picked on it’s our responsibility as a society to report that to teachers or the principal.” That goes for teachers, parents and other witnesses as well. Report bullying. It’s not a “rite of passage” but a scourge that can hinder proper development and create criminal adults. But beyond that, Backstrom discourages parents from suggesting the solution often popularized in the media and what is perhaps a more traditional bit of advice parents give their children: Telling the kid to fight back.

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“Some adults, particularly fathers, tell kids if you want to stop a bully you have to punch him in the face,” Backstrom said. “That is terrible advice to give to a child. In all likelihood they are putting their son or daughter in a situation where they will get hurt.” Overall, Backstrom, like Rogers, implores those who take care of children to not brush off the issue of bullying. “We have to start taking this issue seriously,” Backstrom said. “It’s not something we can ignore as a society.”


The Lakeville Area Public Schools Opportunities for all students! Independent School District 194, the Lakeville Area Public Schools, is an award winning school system located in the South Metro of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul Minnesota. The District serves approximately 11,200 students in Dakota County and Scott County, and covers 86 square miles, including most of Lakeville, parts of Burnsville and Elko New Market, and portions of Eureka, Credit River and New Market Townships. There are eight elementary schools (K-5), three middle schools (6-8) and two high schools (912), an Area Learning Center and two Community Education facilities. On state mandated accountability tests Lakeville ranks 1st in both math and reading proficiency of the 10 largest districts in the state, and experienced the 5th largest performance gain of the 48 metro districts.

Lakeville ranked 8th in overall proficiency of 48 metro districts. Our students scored 23.7 on the ACT. This is the highest score in the history of the district. While we are very proud of these achievement levels, we fully recognize and embrace the fact that there continues to be room for growth. Lakeville Area Public Schools will continue to focus on raising the achievement levels of all students during the 2011 school year. For general information or questions about ISD 194, contact Communications Coordinator Linda Swanson at 952-2322004 or lmswanson@isd194.k12.mn.us Data-informed decisions about instruction are imperative to improved student achievement.

Individualized instruction based on student need Measure of Academic Progress Tests help teachers, schools, and the district: • Inform classroom instruction to meet individual needs • Monitor growth in student achievement over time • Set individual student achievement goals • Monitor the progress of students towards district and state academic standards • Place students into appropriate courses or educational settings • Screen students for additional support, special education services, and gifted programs • Communicate to parents and the community

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Train-track braces no more BY GINNY LEE

Orthodontists everywhere may have cringed when they first saw the main character on the TV show Ugly Betty. Besides her bushy eyebrows and wacky outfits, her “train-track” braces were a part of her trademark identify. Parents, who may have been talking with their child’s dentist about the possibility of seeing an orthodontist, were probably not sad when the series ended in 2010. Parents and orthodontists agree that it is completely inappropriate to associate braces with being ‘ugly’, just as glasses were once seen as an object of ridicule. Orthodontics has come a long way in making braces more acceptable and fun for children. Braces tend to be less uncomfortable and less visible than they used to be. In fact, manufacturers have made brightly colored elastics so kids can choose their school colors or a holiday color scheme, such as orange and black for Halloween. If you’re wondering if your child needs braces, Dr. Trudy Bonvino with Cosmopolitan Orthodontics (located in Lakeville and Savage) says, “In some cases, crooked teeth, problems with biting and chewing, or facial imbalance make the need for braces immediately apparent.” She says in other cases orthodontic problems are less obvious and can be easily overlooked. Bonvino explained, “While your child’s dentist is an expert in caring for the health of the teeth and gums, orthodontists are trained to spot subtle problems with jaw growth and emerging permanent teeth while there are still baby teeth present. So although your child’s teeth may look straight, there could be a problem that only an orthodontist can detect.” According to Dr. Thomas Arnold with Arnold Orthodontics in Lakeville, “The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that a child receive their first orthodontic screening by the age of seven.” Arnold says, “By the age of 7, the first adult molars erupt, establishing the back bite. During this time, an orthodontist can evaluate front-to-back and side-to-side tooth relationships.” When asked at what age children start orthodontic treatment, Arnold said some children benefit from treatment as early as age 7, while other

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children are monitored every six months until all of their baby teeth have been lost. If you are wondering if your child’s bite will improve on its own, Eagan orthodontist Dr. Jennifer Eisenhuth says it’s unlikely. “In most cases,” she commented, “an unhealthy bite can cause additional issues if not treated.” According to Eisenhuth, “The consequences of not getting needed orthodontic treatment may result in teeth being more prone to excessive wear, and that excess spacing may cause gum and bone to recede.”

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Parents often want to know what having braces will be like for their child. Dr. Peter Kuipers, with Kuipers Orthodontics in Burnsville says “Braces are easier than ever; the bands or brackets are much smaller, the wires are more flexible and work slowly over a long period of time.” If your child is worried about looking different, Kuipers reassures parents that so many children these days have braces that most of their friends may be going through the same thing. He says, “For those that are more than a little concerned, we have clear braces, and invisalign as alternatives.”

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The Garage nation: all different, all equal BY MARK MILLER We all have a need for acceptance and respect. That need, however, is perhaps most vital during our adolescent years as we discover who we are, as well as develop the social skills that we will use the rest of our lives. Therefore, it is important for parents to take seriously this recent movement of anti-bully awareness, and to help put kids into environments that will encourage their growth both socially and psychologically. The Garage, a community center in Burnsville, is one such environment that aims to provide kids a healthy place to learn, grow, and have fun. The Garage is best known as a music venue featuring performances of local musicians on Friday and Saturday nights. It has been the launching point for many young, local bands such as Quietdrive, Brothers Loyalty, and Dropping Daylight. In fact, Dropping Daylight toured on the Vans Warped Tour and opened for Jason Mraz. What you may not know, however, is that The Garage has perhaps its biggest impact on the community with its after school and summer programs. It is through these programs that kids are taught

22 Focus Magazine

democratic values and civic engagement through experiential education, all in an environment that aims to redefine community and give people a place to belong. Music and activities may be what encourages kids to check The Garage out for the first time, however it is the acceptance and respect they are shown there that keeps them coming back. The Garage has earned the admirable reputation of being a safehaven for young people who are having a hard time with bullying or being different. Courtny Schultz, now 19 years old, has been going to The Garage since she was 13. Of her experiences there, she says “I was such an awkward kid when I was 13, and whenever I went to the Garage I would come out of my shell. I struggled to figure out how to fit in and I always could count on the Garage kids because I knew that they felt the same way as I did at some point.” According to Dan Miller, front man of the band Brothers Loyalty, the rules of The Garage are simple. He states, “You can pretty much

do or say anything, but discrimination of any kind is grounds to get kicked out. This makes it one of the friendliest places I’ve ever known.” Eric Billiet, Supervisor of The Garage since its opening in 1999, says that he rarely witnesses inappropriate behavior, and when someone does cross the line, they answer to an elected board of their peers. The Garage’s continued inclusiveness of all people, no matter their sexual orientation, physical appearance, beliefs, religion, or preferences, makes it a truly unique place to spend time as an adolescent. It encourages youth to be open-minded, and therefore to find the positives in people rather than to dwell on their negatives. In a world that is shifting towards a ‘glass half empty’ attitude, it is nice to know that at least one place encourages youth to see the endless possibilities of a ‘glass half full’ mentality. For more information, The Garage is online at www.thegarage.net, facebook. com/thegaragecenter, and twitter.com/ thegaragecenter, or call 952-895-4664.


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