Bilingual kids and sign language, the benefits of starting your children off early with language learning and communication

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One of the biggest trends in parenting right now is early bilingual education in the home. This used to be common primarily in homes where two languages were already spoken by parents, but it’s increasingly common in single-language households now.

What’s the appeal? Well, we already know that children of all ages can benefit mightily from exposure to other languages and to other cultures, simply in terms of broadening the mind. We’ve also known for a number of years that to learn a second language is to use parts of the brain that might otherwise remain dormant. Language learning works both the left side of the brain, which enhances creativity and brainstorming, while the absorption and observation of patterns in grammar and inflection inform the right side of the brain, which often results in improved math and literacy comprehension.


So, teaching your child a second language can have real cognitive benefits that last into your child’s adult life. People who are already bi or trilingual have massive advantages when picking up additional languages, and they have an advantage in the career sphere as well, especially given how increasingly globalized the market has become.


Early language learning, especially through ASL sign language, has another additional benefit. Whether you’re teaching your child a spoken language such as Spanish or a gesture-based language like ASL, you’re giving them a broader range of words and phrases they can use to communicate their needs and express themselves. Children who have more words to draw upon have been shown to end up in frustrated breakdowns less frequently, simply because they can get what they need more easily.

When you teach a sign language to your child, you may find that you are able to start communicating clearly much earlier. Children master basic motor skills faster than fine verbal control, so many families that start early with sign will be able to teach infants basic dialog like “I’m hungry” or “I need a nap” where other parents have to rely on their instincts and guess what their child needs from their wailing.
There’s really no downside to adding a second language to your household, and the benefits are both well-demonstrated and wide-reaching. We encourage all readers to introduce a parent’s second language, or to go on a language journey together with your child. You will find many preparatory sign language courses available to expecting parents, and these are an excellent way to give yourself a firm foundation before you start teaching sign to your child.

Dealing with pet allergies using the best pet allergy vacuums, air purifiers, and other tools

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In this piece, we’ll look at some of the major questions we receive about pet allergies, their causes, and some solutions to help you and your child cope. We’ll also go into some of the different products you can use to make your home a less triggering place for those with pet allergies.

So, let’s jump in by discussing pet allergies as a health symptom. Like many allergies, reactions to pets are generally based on genetics. Certain people are predisposed to deal poorly with exposure to pets.That’s cause number one.

Cause number two, as we are learning, can be environmental. By isolating your child too much, you can actually increase their chances of developing allergies. That’s why it’s so important to expose your child to as much of the “real world” as possible, rather than sheltering them from environmental factors like pets, nuts, or pollen.

Raising children around pets from an early age can actually be a smart choice, since they will develop with a basic exposure to a pet environment. Many pet allergy sufferers come from homes which did not have pets when they were first toddling around. Of course, some people will always be allergic, simply because of their genetic makeup. Be sure to test your child as early as possible, and to expose them to pets and allergens in small doses, being careful to check for signs of allergic reactions.

What are people with pet allergies actually reacting to? It’s not the smell of a pet, as many people think, or the presence of fur, at least not as we commonly think of it. No, allergy sufferers are usually reacting to microscopic particles we have a hard time seeing. That’s why you’ll see someone start coughing even though you’re in an apparently clean space.

Pet allergy sufferers are triggered by two main things: dust and dander. Both of these are microscopic particles much like ordinary household dust. The difference is that they’re both produced by pets. Pet dust is usually ordinary household dust that’s been trapped in fur, and gets released when an animal shakes. By then, it’s mixed with dander, which is a mixture of dead skin particles and microscopic hairs that pets constantly shed.

So, is this a sneezing matter, or something more serious? That depends on the child or adult in question. Some people simply start sniffling around pets, and others swell immediately and can be killed by respiratory reactions. It’s important to judge the severity of your child’s symptoms and act accordingly. In some cases children may not be able to have pets at all.

Now, with all that said, many people with pet allergies can coexist with animals, under the right circumstances. And now that we’ve been through the scary stuff, let’s talk about the things you can do to help your child deal with animals in your home.

You can start by finding a hypoallergenic breed of dog or cat. These breeds don’t produce as much dander, and they shed less often and less profusely than other breeds.

If you’re already living with an animal that’s not hypoallergenic, don’t worry. There are several steps you can take. You’ll need to address two things: the allergens, and the allergy sufferer.

To deal with allergens, you want to reduce their quantity in the air and on your pet. Here are a few easy things to do on that front.

First, brush your pet outside on a regular basis. Dogs love being brushed, and most cats can be persuaded if it means they get to explore some new territory. The more hair you remove outside, the less they’ll shed inside the house. This is super important in summer months!

Second, to deal with the fur, dust and dander that your pets produce inside the house. Every parent of an allergy sufferer should own and use a pet allergy vacuum and should learn the tricks of DIY carpet cleaning, floor cleaning, and the like. Pet allergy vacuums have fine filters which can trap all those microscopic allergens, and remove them from carpets, flooring, and other surfaces. Just vacuuming every few days will make a huge difference in your child’s well-being. Make sure you get something that’s bagged, so you aren’t letting any trapped allergens out when you empty the vacuum.

The other big tool is your arsenal is an air purifier. If you don’t already own one, look for something with HEPA-grade filters. They’ll do a great job at dealing with any dust and dander in the air (which, no matter how much you vacuum, will always exist). You’ll probably need to install it in your child’s sleeping space, unless pets don’t go in that room.

So, to reiterate, you should take a proactive approach to reducing the allergens your dog or cat produces inside, and then use a vacuum and an air purifier with filter sets to take care of anything else in the house.

Taking all these steps and investing in good cleaning equipment is actually a good thing for other household members, too. By removing those fine particles from your air, you’ll be helping yourself breathe better with less scratching in your throat, and less congestion (since mucus is your body’s way of getting rid of tiny particles and germs that are breathed in). Want to learn more on how to clean up after your pet? Visit this link.

Finally, lest we forget, you may need to do a few things to help out the allergy sufferer. Ask your doctor if medications might be necessary, and follow their advice.

Allergies in kids: The effects of exposure on allergic reactions and allergy control

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It’s hard to ignore the rise of allergies in children these days. More and more children are shown to have allergies, and they’re having allergic reactions to more and more factors.

As this trend has developed, many of us here at Education International have been wondering whether the increase in cases is actually due to an increase in allergic children, or if it is merely a result of more screenings carried out earlier in life.


While both are probably true to some extend, new research is pointing to a rise in the prevalence of allergies that can’t be explained by improved screenings. Researchers have concluded a study which examined severe peanut allergies in children. They had some surprising, but we think encouraging, findings to share.


Here’s how the study worked.


The researchers focused on children with a high risk of developing severe peanut allergies. They already knew that some percentage of children are genetically predisposed to develop severe peanut allergies, and that the predisposition is measurable through other symptoms, such as hives. However, they wanted to measure whether these predispositions were always translating into full-blown nut allergies with severe reactions, and what the factors were which contributed to that translation.


So, there were two groups of children involved in the study. One group of children were kept in total isolation from peanuts, which has been the traditional wisdom in parenting for years now. The other group of children were introduced to small amounts (about a teaspoon) of peanut butter starting at about 6 months. They were fed the nut butter under careful supervision, to make sure that any reactions were resolved by doctors on hand. This continued until the children reached the age of 5.

The results were dramatic. The children who were introduced to tiny amounts of peanut butter on a regular basis were 80% less likely to have developed an actual nut allergy by age 5 than those children who were kept away from nut products. And remember, these children all had the same predisposition toward severe nut allergies from birth.


So, it turns out that small, monitored peanut exposure is actually good for reducing severe reactions in most children. Now, we want to caution parents that 20% of those children in the peanut intake group did develop the severe allergies, so this isn’t a cure-all by any means. But the study joins a growing body of research which suggests that by  completely preventing exposure to many environmental factors like nuts, pollen, and other allergens, we may be doing more harm than good to many of our allergy-prone children.


These results are scheduled to be published as part of the government’s updated recommendations on allergy prevention and treatment in the next year. In the meantime, researchers have recommended that parents consult their doctor about the study, establish whether their child has a predisposition for severe allergies, and begin to introduce small amounts of nut products under careful supervision to see whether you might be able to prevent your child developing a life-threatening allergy later in their development.


Don’t be scared to break the stigma around nut exposure, but be sure to keep in careful accordance with the latest research, and ask your pediatrician about how they’d recommend you introduce nut products with your child.


In short, while this study has shown that some small percentage of children will inevitably develop severe nut allergies, we are hopeful that carefully monitored exposure to potential allergens may help to lessen the spread and scope of severe allergies in our children worldwide.
We’ll be sure to keep you up to speed with the governmental guidelines when they’re published.