What Are Functional Assessments and the Four Main Functions of Behavior?

What are functional assessments?

Functional assessments are used to develop interventions for helping people change their behavior. A functional assessment is a procedure that is used to help identify what is reinforcing or

maintaining the behavior of concern. In order to generate a hypothesis about why an individual does something, a behavior analyst gathers information about the problem behavior (anything an individual does that is harmful or undesirable in some way). By observing the antecedents (what happened immediately before the behavior) and the consequences (what happened immediately after the behavior) of the problem behavior, behavior analysts can develop a probable cause for the behavior.

What is the function of behavior?

The function of behavior is the reason people behave in a certain way. People engage in millions of different behaviors each day, but the reasons for doing these different behaviors fall into four main categories.

The four main functions that maintain behaviors are:

  • Escape/Avoidance: The individual behaves in order to get out of doing something he/she does not want to do.
  • Attention Seeking: The individual behaves to get focused attention from parents, teachers, siblings, peers, or other people that are around them.
  • Seeking Access to Materials: The individual behaves in order to get a preferred item or participate in an enjoyable activity.
  • Sensory Stimulation: The individual behaves in a specific way because it feels good to them.

Once you have identified what function or functions are maintaining the behavior, you can start to implement an intervention that will help decrease the problem behavior and increase more appropriate behaviors.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonDeerfieldLincolnwoodGlenviewLake BluffDes PlainesHinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

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5 Ways To Make Meal Time Easier With Your Child

  1. Sit as a family: When juggling work, sports, and multiple schedules, it can be difficult to get food on the table, let alone sit down as a family.  Sitting as a family offers many benefits including conversation time, modeling good eating habits, and introducing new or non-preferred foods. Family mealEncourage your child to talk about their day without being interrupted.  Taking your time and chewing thoroughly while eating are good eating habits to model. When new foods are introduced, your child is more likely to try these foods if they observe you or siblings eating them as well.
  2. Turn off the TV: In order to eat without distraction, it is important to turn off of the TV during meal time.  Subsequently, ask your child to eat at the kitchen table rather than in the family room.  Eating in front of the TV may distract your child from the food on their plate, particularly if non-preferred food is offered.  Additionally, eliminating this distraction allows your child to concentrate on safe eating habits.
  3. Make it fun: Make meal time fun by introducing animals and characters.  First, tell your child there is a party in their tummy and all their food wants to be a part of it.  Encourage your child to eat more by taking a mouse bite (little bite) or a dinosaur bite (large bite).  Characterizing food can make food seem not so scary to children.  Call broccoli “trees”, or make Mickey Mouse shaped sandwiches or pancakes.  Fun utensils such as lizard forks or airplane spoons make meal time more fun too!
  4. Give your child choices: Getting your child to eat vegetables or a new food can be as difficult as taking them to the doctor.  Giving your child choices when it comes to their meals not only gives you full control, but it allows your child to feel like they have a part too. If vegetables are typically refused, introduce these foods as a choice rather than telling your child what they have to eat.  “Do you want broccoli or carrots?” or “Do you want ranch on the side, or do you want to eat your vegetables plain?”
  5. Include Child in Preparation: Encourage your child to help you prepare the food.  Allow your child to help add ingredients, add food to each plate, set the table, and clear the dishes.  Similarly to giving your child choices, let your child help choose what to eat for a meal.  When your child is included in the preparation, they are more likely to participate during meal time.

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3 Signs your Child is Ready to Read | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s webisode, an academic specialist introduces us to the 3 top indications a child is ready to start reading.
Click here to read our blog titled “10 Signs of a Reading Disorder

In this video you will learn:

  • What factors determines the child’s desire to read
  • What is phonemic awareness
  • Signs in the child’s behavior indicating his readiness to read

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now your host, here’s Robyn.

Robyn: Hello, and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host, Robyn
Ackerman, and I’m sitting here today with Elizabeth Galin [SP], an academic
specialist. Elizabeth, can you tell us what are three signs to look for
that a child may be ready to read?

Elizabeth: Absolutely. The first sign to look for when your child is ready
to read is motivation. You’re looking for your child looking forward toward
that reading time, sitting down with you, understanding that books open and
close, they turn pages right to left, that the words and the pictures on
the storybook tell us something, tell us the story.

And as children get older, the next thing you’re looking for, the second
thing you’re looking for, is letter recognition. Children begin to
understand the letters of the alphabet, specifically letters in their name
or maybe, letters in a brand that they recognize, Thomas for Thomas the
Tank Engine or stop like a stop sign, and then they begin to associate
sounds with those letters and that’s called phonemic awareness.

The third thing that you’re looking for in a child being able to read is
print awareness. So they begin to realize that letters on the page come
together to form words. Those words form sentences. Those sentences tell us
the story that we’re listening to. And you may find a young child being
interested in imitating writing. They can’t form the letter but they make
pretend letters.

Robyn: All right. Well, thank you so much, Elizabeth. Those are some great
things to look out for, and thank you to our viewers. And remember, keep on
blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of mind
to your family with the best in educational programming. To subscribe to
our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit our website at
learnmore.me. That’s learnmore.me.

Get your Child Ready for 1st Grade

For many children going to 1st grade is a huge milestone.  More hours spent in school, higher expectations for academic, behavior,  social skills, and more peer pressure.Child in First Grade

Here are some tips to parent these kids as “right” as you can before 1st grade:

Academics

  • Prepare your child with some online fun academics, flash cards, or any workbook for 1st grade readiness;  but make it fun!  10 minutes per day is enough! You can even try KUMON math and reading to get them strong in basics for math and reading.  This will also prepare them with homework.
  • Strengthen up any weaknesses your child may have in academics. If they need a little reading help, use the following tips in this blog. If they need some number work, try flashcards, or try a tutor, but even just 10 minutes a day can make a huge difference in their self esteem about academics.
  • Get your child tested now if you detect any challenges. Don’t wait for the teacher to say something at conferences!  Go get a good neuropsychological exam and you will know what strengths and challenges your child has and have an opportunity to grow them.
  • Use a daily schedule even in first grade for time management and learning appropriate skills.

Behavior

  • Make sure your child knows how to follow rules, understands boundaries, and knows the expectations of first grade children.  This includes raising hands, taking turns, staying quiet and getting involved/participation, etc.
  • Get your child some support if behavior is an issue.  There are social groups, social workers, books, all kinds of tools to help out there!
  • Your child needs to know what YOU expect of him and what your consequences  are at home.
  • Make sure your family gets proper sleep and food daily.

Social skills/Peer Pressure

  • Make play dates for your child and help model proper 1st grade skills.
  • Join a community playgroup/social group at a local clinic, park district or religious organization.
  • If you suspect something is still off about his social skills, get him evaluated and he can practice his skills with the right support.
  • Make sure to keep your child engaged and talkative with you so you can help him through the tough and great times of 1st grade.

Good luck!

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Top 5 Reasons Why Your Child Should Practice Mazes at Home

Mazes are a huge hit with therapists and children alike!  While mazes are lots of fun and provide a sufficient challenge for children, they also help therapists to address a variety of skills within your child’s therapy session.  Mazes can be taped to a wall at your child’s eye-level so that he can work on a vertical surface.  This mimics a chalkboard or an easel board and promotes wrist extension and copying from a board (like in a classroom).

Mouse and cheese maze

Below are several reasons to practice mazes with your child at home:

  • Problem solving:  Mazes help your child to work on his executive functioning skills, such as planning and brainstorming various strategies (e.g. starting from the beginning of the maze or working backwards from the end of maze).
  • Fine motor control:  Mazes require your child to control his pencil through the maze without hitting the black lines. This means that he must take his time rather than rushing, in order to have greater success.  Progress can be observed as your child bumps into the black lines less and less as he gains greater control of his writing utensil.  Children use fine motor control in order to produce correct letter formation and legible handwriting.
  • Visual motor:  Mazes require your child to use his eyes to scan the worksheet in order to find possible solutions.  Scanning is a great skill used for reading and writing, as it is important to scan from the left side of the paper to the right side.
  • Grading of an activity:  Mazes can be broken down into different steps.  For instance, first have your child start by moving his finger, next a pencil, then a marker through the maze.  This helps your child to solve the same maze three times consecutively, which allows the skill to sink-in better.
  • Confidence:  Mazes are perfect fine motor activities to help boost your child’s confidence.  Have your child begin with a simple maze to provide immediate success, and then have him work towards completing mazes of increased difficulty.

Fine motor and visual motor skills can be practiced in a wide variety of ways, including mazes.  Mazes are a great way to work on handwriting without just writing letters and words. There are many websites that offer free printable maze worksheets for a variety of age levels and themes.  An internet search such as, “simple mazes for 4-year-olds,” will produce a variety of mazes and printable activities that are perfect for practicing these important skills at home!

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School Lunchbox Meal Ideas

It’s here- the new school year! Bringing lunch from home is great if it is feasible for your family. It can be tricky coming up with school lunchbox ideas that include variety, foods your kids will eat, and foods that will stay good until lunchtime. I recommend getting a lunchbox that can Child with lunchboxaccommodate a refrigerated pack to keep certain foods cold.

Here are 5 ideas, one for each day of the week, that are dietitian approved:

Sandwich Lunchbox

You can’t go wrong with the tried and true staple.

  • Whole grain or 100% whole w­­­heat bread, nitrate- and nitrite-free lunchmeat, real cheese (steer clear of the heavily processed ones that come individually plastic-wrapped), lettuce, tomato, mustard.
  • 2 mini oranges
  • Whole wheat pretzels

Vegetarian Tortilla Wrap Lunchbox

Although it’s vegetarian, it’s not lacking in protein.

  • Use your kid’s favorite tortilla wrap (spinach, whole wheat, etc), and fill it with hummus or pureed black beans or lentils, sliced red and green peppers, and shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese.
  • To make a bean puree:  Saute ½ of a white or yellow onion in olive oil in a small skillet. Add pre-cooked lentils, beans, or canned beans and season with salt, pepper, and cumin. Cool after cooking, and stir in chopped cilantro and a little of your favorite salsa. Puree or fork mash the mixture.
  • Tortilla chips
  • Grapes

Lettuce Wrap Lunchbox

Kids like assembling their own foods, and although this might seem outside of the norm in terms of “kid food”, they are delicious.

  • 3 pieces of whole romaine lettuce leaves (approx 6” long ), 3 strips of baked, grilled, or otherwise cooked chicken or steak, thinly sliced carrots, and a mini Tupperware container of Asian salad dressing (be aware that many Asian dressings contain peanuts. If your school is 100% peanut-free, try French or Catalina dressing instead).
  • Clif Z bar or Larabar
  • Dried cranberries
  • Milk

Bagel, Nut Butter, and Jelly Lunchbox

 Again, you can’t go wrong with this kid favorite.

  • Use a whole grain bagel or a whole wheat English muffin. If your school is peanut-free, instead of peanut butter, try sunflower seed butter, almond butter or cashew butter. Add your kid’s favorite jelly (I recommend organic preserves that have less sugar- check at the farmers market too), and even a little drizzle of honey.
  • Carrot sticks
  • Whole grain Goldfish crackers
  • Milk

Cracker and Cheese Assortment

With the right sides, this does make a good meal.

  • Whole grain woven wheat crackers (i.e. Triscuits)
  • Brown rice cake or rice crackers
  • Whole grain round crackers
  • Two types of cheeses, sliced into 2”x2” squares, such as cheddar, swiss, muenster, or whatever you have in the house.
  • Shelled edamame
  • Banana

Each of the above meals includes (at minimum) a source of protein, a whole grain, a fruit, a vegetable, and a dairy serving. Give your child’s lunch experience a special touch by including a little note from you or dad, or put a sticker on one of the baggies or containers. And remember, fueling your child’s body and brain with healthy foods before and during school promotes better learning and school performance.

*Tip to encourage your child to eat the above lunchbox meals:  Share these meal ideas with your child’s friends’ parents. Kids tend to eat better in social settings where they see other kids eating and trying different things.

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Monkey Bar Mania

It is time. Lunch is over and the weather is finally allowing our children to break free of their heavy winter coats and boots to enjoy the warm, fresh, and invigorating air on the playground. Antsy children struggle to contain their excitement as they take their final steps to the great outdoors- slides,Little girl climbing on monkey bars teeter-totters, swings, and kickball fields galore. Only the bravest of the brave dare take on the tall metal intimidators commonly known as the monkey bars.

Monkey bar climbing has been right of passage for children all across the playground. Conquering their cold frames take time, practice, and determination. Here are the developmental steps to achieving the ultimate goal: swinging from one end to the other without touching the ground as our ape-like friends seem to do so effortlessly.

  1. First, ask your child to reach for the monkey bars and let their feet dangle. Cheer them on and encourage them to hang on as long as they can. This will help them to strengthen the muscles in their hands and upper body.
  2. Next, encourage them to swing their legs back and forward while maintaining their tight hold on the bar. This swinging will in turn, give your child the burst of momentum they’ll need to eventually move across the bars.
  3. Next, help them coordinate the swing of their legs with the movement of an arm to reach for the next bar. Keep in mind that your child may need you to support them at their waist in order to complete the first few swings. It may also be a good idea to encourage them to first reach with their dominant hand as they may have an increased rate of success at grabbing the bar.
  4. After successfully completing one swing, talk your child through bringing their other arm to same bar that the first is holding. Once your child can successfully cross the monkey bars one at a time, they may then practice alternating hands on sequential bars. Once they’ve mastered the monkey bars, they can move on to eventually skipping one or two bars at time!

For other playground tips and tricks, see Amanda Matthews’ blog suggesting tips to work on motor skills at the park.

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What is an Appropriate Age for Dating? | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s webisode, a pediatric social worker explains ways to determine at what age it is appropriate for your child to begin dating.  Click here to read our blog titled “5 Tips For Your Dating Teen”

In this video you will learn:

  • How to tell if your child is ready to date
  • What factors weigh in on the decision of dating
  • How to tell if your child is ready to date

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a world wide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now, your host, here’s
Robyn.

Robyn: Hello, and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host, Robyn
Ackerman, and today I’m sitting here with Michelle Winterstein, a Pediatric
Social Worker. Michelle, can you tell our viewers at what age is it
appropriate to allow your child to start dating?

Michelle: Sure, Robyn. I don’t think that a specific age automatically
deems your child ready to start dating. I think it’s really an individual
factor, and it depends on the maturity of your child. I think the important
thing is when your child comes to you and expresses an interest in dating,
and you think that they are at the maturity level where they are ready for
that, then open up the lines of communication and make sure that your child
feels comfortable talking to you about the process of dating. I would also
recommend getting to know the child that your child is interested in dating
and make sure that that child’s family has similar values as your own.

Robyn: All right. Well, thank you so much, and thank you to our viewers.
And remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of mind
to your family with the best in educational programming. To subscribe to
our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit our website at
learnmore.me. That’s learnmore.me.

How to Promote In-Hand Manipulation in Everyday Activities with Kids

In-hand manipulation skills are important for many everyday tasks, such as eating, writing, dressing, playing, and drawing. With all the busy schedules these days, it is often hard to find time to practice such skills enough.Mother practices hand manipulation with daughter

Here are ten ways to encourage development of in-hand manipulation through tasks and activities that you and your children already do!

  1. When putting change into a piggy bank, have your child pick up several coins with her fingers, one at a time, and transfer them onto her palm. With all of the coins securely held in her palm, she should then transfer one coin at a time into the bank.
  2. Play board games or any game involving small pieces (for example, connect-4). Have your child hold all the pieces in her hand, transferring pieces from her palm to her fingers, one at a time, as needed for the game.
  3. While eating snacks, have your child hold multiple small pieces in her hand, letting go of one at a time. Also, while eating a larger snack like a chip, have your child rotate it in-hand (turn it in a circle) before eating it.
  4. Use tongs or tweezers to pick up game pieces. You can also use them for crafts!
  5. Encourage your kid to do buttons, skips, and snaps independently or help you with yours.
  6. Ask your child for help with various baking and cooking tasks such as rolling bread or shaping cookies. She can also use tubes of frosting to help decorate cakes and cupcakes.
  7. If you are about to enjoy a pop, ask your child to help you open it. Do the same for opening and closing bottles or jars of various sizes.
  8. While drawingplace the crayon inverted (upside down) on the table so that your child has to turn it around with one hand before drawing.
  9. Complete a puzzle together. While figuring out where the pieces go, encourage your child to use one hand to rotate a piece until it fits in a spot.
  10. When writing with a pencil, practice rotating it around to erase with one hand or have races to see who can “shift” their hand down the pencil the fastest.

Do not let a learning opportunity pass you by! Keep an eye out for these everyday opportunities that can promote continued development of in-hand manipulation skills for your children. Without any planning, you can still easily help your children blossom and reach their full potential!

For more information on in-hand manipulation, see my previous blog.

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Ways to Improve Core Strength at the Playground

As the weather is becoming nicer, you are most likely spending more time outside and at your neighborhood parks. If your child is working on improving their core strength in their therapy sessions and at home, this can also be carried over while playing on a playground.Child swinging in the playground

The following activities can be completed to improve your child’s core strength:

  • Climbing ladders
  • Completing monkey bars
  • Pumping themselves on the swing or pushing another friend or sibling on the swing
  • Going down the slide in a “V” position
  • Jumping off surfaces of varying heights with two feet together
  • Create an obstacle course throughout the playground
  • Crawling through tunnels, under things , and over things
  • Running on different surfaces (sand, wood chips, grass, sidewalks, uneven bridges)

Hopefully these activities will add some variety into the home exercise program your child is currently doing.

Happy Exercising!

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