Y-N Boards2

How to Use Visual Supports at Home for Language Development

For children with receptive and expressive language disorders, visual supports can be powerful tools when communicating. Visual supports are beneficial to aid in not only the comprehension of language, but also to improve expression of language. These visuals can provide a child with information they are missing when comprehending language or speaking. Visual supports are so universal and easily to utilize that they can be implemented seamlessly in the home environment.

How to use visual supports to improve language comprehension:

For children that experience deficits in language comprehension, visual aids are a great way to improve their ability to comprehend instructioVisual Supportsns, rules of an activity, and expectations. Here are some examples of ways to create visual aids for receptive language tasks.

  • Visual schedules can be pictorial, written or both. It is important to tailor the schedule to the child’s abilities. For children with receptive language deficits, hearing their schedule for the day can be confusing and maybe, even a little scary. By presenting a visual schedule, paired with a verbal description, a child will receive the information via two avenues of communication, which will likely improve comprehension of what to expect.
  • A Listening Chart, as shown below, visually depicts the components to being a good listener. When expectations or rules are presented only verbally, information is often forgotten. By using a visual to depict expectations, the child will be more successful and can easily remind him or herself of what actions need to be completed.
  • Presenting choices visually can be a powerful tool for children who have receptive language deficits. For example, if there are two choices for snack (e.g., pretzels or grapes), you can present two pictures of these food items when asking the child what he or she would like to eat.

How to use visual supports to improve language production:

The use of visual aids for language production is slightly more diverse than those utilized for language comprehension. Visual aids for language expression are often used to help a child initiate communication, participate appropriately in a conversation, and to expand utterances. Here are some examples of visual aids used to improve expressive language skills.Smash Mats

  • Smash mats are a great tool to use to expand a child utterance length (e.g., from two word to three words). As shown here, a smash mat can be as simple as three dots on a page. When modeling a sentence, you can touch a dot as you say each word (e.g., Girl is swinging or I want goldfish). You can make smash mats even more enticing by adding a playdoh ball to each dot. Smash mats are also great, because as your child continues to progress in their expressive language skills, you can continue to increase the length of their utterance by adding additional dots to your mat.
  • A Topic Tree is one of many visual aids that can be used during conversations. The topic tree is specifically for topic maintenance (i.e., staying on the same topic of conversation with your
    communication partner). For example, if you are talking about Christmas with your child, each time that you make a comment, ask a question or appropriately respond on the topic of Christmas, you put a leaf on the tree. This is an easy DIY visual aid you can make at home!
  • A Yes/No Board is a great visual aid for an emerging communicator. It is a simple visual depiction of the concepts of “yes” and “no.” Yes/No boards can be visually Y-N Boards2displayed in a variety of ways as shown below. When asking a child a Y/N question, by presenting the child with this visual, you are not only cueing the child that you are asking a question, but also providing the child with the appropriate response choices.Y-N Board

All of these visual aids will not only increase a child’s engagement in a daily activity, but also aid in making transitions smoother. Visual aids can be implemented at any age and in any environment.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Mequon! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140.

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Teaching Children Mindfulness

By now, there’s a good chance that you have heard of mindfulness. It seems to be everywhere these days, but what exactly is it? Mindfulness is a meditation practice that begins with paying blog-mindfulness-main-landscapeattention to breathing to focus on the here and now. It means being aware of your present moment (thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations) without judgments and without trying to change it.

Why Teach Mindfulness?

In today’s world with TV, video games, computers and busy schedules it can be hard to focus on the here and now, however, the benefits of being able to be mindful are vast. Recent scientific research has shown the positive effects it can have on positive well- being and mental health. It has been shown to improve attention, reduce stress, and increase the ability to regulate emotions and feel compassion and empathy.

3 Benefits of Being Mindful for Children:

  1. Being mindful can give you more choices and more control over behaviors. Being fully aware is important if a child is overly emotional or impulsive. It allows them the opportunity to slow down and catch themselves before they do something they might regret later.
  2. Being mindful can increase compassion and empathy for oneself and others. When kids learn to be aware while being nonjudgmental, they can turn the criticisms into observable facts.
  3. Being mindful can help with focus and make kids more productive. When kids stay focused, they can stay engaged better in activities and school work.

How to Teach Mindfulness at Home:

An excellent way to teach mindfulness at home is to model and participate in mindfulness as a parent. Setting routines to take a few moments, close your eyes, notice your breath, thoughts, emotions, physical sensations without judgment can make a great impact on the whole family. Parents can encourage their kids to take a few moments during homework time, stressful times or just any transition time to practice being mindful. Being mindful can be fun too!

Try the following exercises with your child:

  1. The seeing game can be asking your child to take a minute to notice things around the room they haven’t noticed before. Did they notice anything new or different?
  2. Going on a nature walk can be turned into a mindfulness exercise encouraging your child to use their five senses (sight, sound, smell, taste and touch) to be mindful of the world around them.
  3. The “tense and relax” exercise; in this exercise kids tense different muscles in their bodies for a few seconds and then release. This is a great way for kids to relax and be present.
  4. Breathing friends- Use a stuffed animal to help your child practice mindful breathing. Teach your child to take deep breaths and notice how their body feels as their chest and belly goes up and down. Then have the child teach the deep breathing to the stuffed animal to empower them.

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18365029

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17940025

Rathus, J. H., & Miller, A. L. (n.d.). DBT skills manual for adolescents.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

Social Work

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How to Motivate the Unorganized Child

Executive functioning challenges can often be overlooked as children are otherwise labeled as lazy or Unorganized Childunmotivated. If a child has difficulties with executive functioning he or she may present with behaviors of avoidance, emotional outbursts, or not even acknowledging the task at hand. This is probably because they are feeling overwhelmed and do not have the foundational skills needed to problem solve through organizational tasks. Helping your child to develop these skills can support their independent success and can increase future task initiation toward personal organization.

What Can Parents Do to Help an Unorganized Child?

Support them, assist in their growth of skills, and praise any small triumph! The general idea is to have the child learn the problem solving skills required to think through tasks that are seemingly overwhelming. First you always, ALWAYS start small, then tackle bigger projects as they can manage. Then as they make achievements, don’t forget to recognize their hard work! Praise moments of follow through and self-initiated tasks with recognition and/or rewards.

5 Tips to Help Organize Their Life:

  1. Establish a place to write it all down- daily planners and a family calendar are great tools to keep track of their time.
  2. Introduce Responsibility- Create a Chore chart and a To-Do list as a family. Don’t forget to keep their age and time needed for completion of these activities in mind when choosing the appropriate task(s).
  3. Acknowledge that the time is ticking- Visual timers are great for those children who tend to take more time than necessary on simple tasks. Timers can also help to keep a child focused and engaged in the activity.
  4. Create a place for all items to have a specific home- Designate places for items and stick to it. Growing up with the golden rule  ‘Always place an item back in its original place, in its same or better condition’ may help keep the house cleaner. Utilizing organizational tools, such as visual prompts (numbering, color coding) and charts can help too.
  5. Check in- They will need a little help! Have the children show you their completed work, planner, clean space, etc. Make them feel accomplished and help them problem solve solutions to existing problems.

5 Activity Ideas to Facilitate their Organizational Skills:

  1. Tackle a junk drawer, pantry shelf, or game closet- Have them help a parent problem solve through the organization of a messy place. Starting in a small place is key so there are no overwhelming moments too big for the child. Have the child think through the task with the parent facilitating only when needed.
  2. Cook with your child- A successful meal requires significant planning, working memory, organization, and time management.  See how much they can lead the cooking activity and help when needed. This can be fun for the child while having a great learning experience!
  3. Have them set up the family’s calendar for the next week or month- Give them the tools to place all of the activities on the calendar and check their work when done. Have the child help recognize and problem solve through time conflicts.
  4. Create an annual family night with board games- Board games are great for independent thinking and problem solving. Their success within a board game can greatly depend on their ability to organize themselves and materials within the game.
  5. Assist with putting together new things- Following written or verbal directions can be very difficult. With supervision and help, have the child responsible for constructing and/or setting up new purchased items.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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organize your child's room

Help Your Child Organize His Room

“Clean your room!” If only you had a nickel for every time that battle cry resonated through the halls of your home.

Organization of a room is a song and dance of its own accord. There is the clean out process, the sort and store aspects and the long-term maintenance of the belongings. The amount of organization options available can be just as confusing. Remember, organizing for your child is much different than organizing for yourself. Here are a few key aspects of organizing your child’s room to keep in mind.

Tips to Help Your Child Organize His Room:

  1. See what your child sees: when organizing his room, make sure you are taking your child’s perspective. GetHelp Your Child Organize His Room to his level to truly understand how your child is seeing his room. Identifying his vantage points will help you to place the important, and most necessary items, in direct line of sight.
  2. Make it a team effort: allowing your child to have input in their room, the decorations, and the organization strategies, will make for an excellent learning opportunity. It allows for the child to understand the steps that are involved in creating a system; it will also translate into maintaining the system they help to create.
  3. Keep it child friendly: Accordion-style closet doors can pinch fingers, hanging rods can be too tall, hangers can be too big…the list continues. Make sure that the space is child friendly; for younger children, remove closet doors completely. Install a second hanging rod within arm’s reach for the current season’s clothing. Use open containers on the floor of the closet for toys and knick-knacks.
  4. Increase responsibility with age: between the ages of 2-4 the clean-up and organize process can be a game. Turn clean up into a song and dance or a race. At ages 5-8, integrate more self-initiated clean-up times into the daily routine. Ages 9-12 bring the need to organize school items and extracurricular sports materials. Increase the amount of organization your child is responsible for as their day-to-day responsibilities increase.

Click here to learn if your child’s disorganization is a sign of a bigger problem.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

school advocate

How to Choose the Right School Advocate for Your Child

Have you heard the phrase “Free Appropriate Public Education?” If you have a school-aged child with special needs, most likely you have.  This is because a FREE and APPROPRIATE education is guaranteed by law.  Sometimes, however, this is easier said than done.  Although it’s relatively simple to learn the laws and understand your rights, obtaining appropriate services, goals, accommodations, modifications, placement, and an adequate ongoing education is often much more difficult.  The process can be frustrating, overwhelming, confusing, and time-consuming.

That is why many parents choose to work with a School Advocate.  They feel that it “levels the playing field” and that they have a much better chance ensuring that their children’s needs will be met.   How, though, does one go about choosing an effective School Advocate?  There are several important items to consider when choosing an Advocate that will be most effective for your child and your situation.  The first is that ANYONE can call themselves an “Advocate”. There is no certification or licensure or specialized education needed to be a special education advocate. This is why it is extremely important to ensure that your Advocate is knowledgeable and experienced.

Following are some key questions and thoughts to consider when choosing your School Advocate:

  1. In order to effectively advocate for your child, the Advocate needs a solidschool advocate understanding of the law. School teams often use terms you might not be familiar with and reference “law” that may or may not be accurate.  An experienced Advocate can provide you with explanations, accurate information and be able to counter the school’s arguments when they are telling you things that might not be true, might not be the whole truth, or when they fail to tell you all of the options.
  2. An effective Advocate understands school systems, teaching methods, curriculum, and interventions. She knows how to measure your child’s progress in school and how to use this information when developing the IEP.
  3. An effective Advocate understands and can interpret evaluation scores. Although school staff will tell you their interpretation, it is always wise to have an expert independently review the results.  A qualified Advocate can review all the data and explain to you what they mean, how they apply to your child, and for which services your child may or may not be entitled based on those results.  An effective Advocate is the link between the evaluation and your IEP team.
  4. The IEP is the hallmark feature of your child’s programming and should to be written by someone who thoroughly understands each aspect of this document. A qualified special education Advocate will be able to review the IEP, section-by-section, and provide you with a detailed list of suggestions to improve the IEP in order to meet your child’s needs.  Are the baseline data adequate to write the goals?  Are the goals meaningful and supported by the data?  Are there sufficient goals to ensure progress? Are your parent concerns written in a manner that truly reflect what you stated?  Are your child’s needs properly identified?  Is your child being provided ample services to address the goals?  Are the specialists providing enough “minutes” to meet your child’s needs?  Are the accommodations and modifications appropriate?  An experienced Advocate can also analyze the IEP in relation to past IEPs and evaluation data and provide you with an informative summary that will help you know if your child’s services are progressing in a manner this is truly adequate and supportive.
  5. An effective Advocate will educate and empower you to become a better advocate for your child. She will teach you how to plan and prepare for meetings, how to ask questions to get the information you need, how to write effective emails and letters, and how to navigate the process.  A well-trained Advocate will also help you know when you need advice from an Attorney.
  6. An effective Advocate can take the emotion out of the process.  She should be able to remain calm…and not be too aggressive or too timid.  An Advocate should be able to diplomatically handle conflict in a way that helps you feel comfortable throughout the process while ensuring that your child has everything necessary to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education.

Click here to learn more about School Advocacy at North Shore Pediatric Therapy.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

help your child learn to listen

Help Your Child Learn to Listen

If you spend a frequent amount of time with a young child, you know that one of the most common directions you find yourself saying is, “LISTEN!” Telling a child to listen seems like an easy enough request, right? When in actuality, listening is a skill that children have to develop and improve upon as they age.

When a child carries out a direction incorrectly there are many different factors that could be preventinglearn to listen his or her ability to be successful. Successful listening requires adequate attention and motivation to the current situation. If those components are not present, comprehension or retention of what is said will not be optimal. The best way to help a child be more successful is to teach them how to attend to what is being said. If your child is struggling to follow directions at home or at school, use the following four strategies to help them attend to the information that is being presented to him and her, which will ultimately help them become more skilled listeners and be more successful.

Strategies to help your child attend/listen:

  1. Look at the speaker – Make eye contact with the person who is talking.
  2. Quiet body – Keep your mouth, hands and feet quiet or still.
  3. Think about what is being said – Echo the directions in your mind or out loud. Repeating directions is a good strategy as it increases the retention of the presented information.
  4. Ask if you don’t understand – It’s important for children to develop self-advocacy skills and to feel confident when asking for clarification or extra help.

Use the visual aid to the right as a remainder for kids to use their listening strategies. This can be printed off and taped on his or her desk or hung on the refrigerator. The more the strategies are referenced, the more a child will become familiar with them and start to use them.

It is possible that there may be an underlying issue behind a child’s poor listening skills, such as language comprehension deficits, an auditory processing disorder or even an undiagnosed hearing loss. Consult with your child’s speech-language pathologist if a child continues to struggle with following directions or listening in the classroom.


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NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

praise your child the right way

Praise Your Child The Right Way

Praise is an important part of raising a child with healthy self-esteem. The right kind of praise can make the difference between having a child with self-confidence and grit and a child who depends on outside praise for his sense of self-worth. Praise your child the right way with these 5 tips.

5 Tips to Praise Your Child the Right Way:praise your child the right way

  1. Be Specific: Instead of saying, “Good job!” say, “Good job staying focused and finishing all ten math problems. I’m so proud of you.” Being specific makes praise more meaningful because it attunes your child to his or her special effort or skill and makes that specific action or effort more motivating in the future.
  2. Praise the Process: Praise hard work, perseverance, and resilience, even if the objective was not reached. Success doesn’t always come on the first try. People aren’t always born with innate talents. Praise for the process encourages continued effort in the future.
  3. Pick Praiseworthy Situations: Praise is most effective and meaningful when given at times when your child is attempting to do something out of his or her normal pattern of behavior, for example: overcome a challenge, follow through on a difficult task, or put in extra effort.
  4. Know Your Child’s Strengths/Weaknesses: To identify praiseworthy situations, you need to be attuned to your child’s abilities. Praise is most needed when your child participates in a challenging activity or when he/she is concerned about his/her performance.
  5. Don’t Overdo It: Praise is extremely important, but praising your child for everything he or she does, can make your positive words meaningless. Make sure your praise is sincere.

Read here for more on the power of positive praise.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today! 

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How to Adapt a Book to Support Language Development

Books have long been considered an avenue for enhancing language development. Books provide children a way to learn more vocabulary, explore new things and enhance their literacy development. In the words of Dr. Seuss, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Books by themselves are great therapeutic activities, however, at times more interaction is required to help children with speech and language disorders engage with the stories they are listening to. By adapting a book, you are providing a child with additional ways to interact with the story, words and language within its pages. Greater interaction will ultimately lead to increased comprehension and improved language development (Delsandro, 2013).

How to Adapt a Book:

There is no correct way to adapt a book, in fact, books can often be adapted several different ways. Once you have a book that you would like to adapt, you need to decide which aspect of the story you want make more “interactive” or which element you would like to emphasize/highlight. Ways to adapt a bookBrown Bear can be to highlight repetitive text, simplify text or use a carrier phrase (e.g., “I want the ______” or “She has the ______”) (Delsandro, 2013). For example, in the picture to the right, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle was adapted to highlight the repetitive concepts of color (adjective) + animal (noun).

The computer software, Boardmaker, was used to select pictures to represent each item. The pictures were then laminated, with Velcro placed both on the back of the pictures and then in the book. Depending on the child’s skill level and therapeutic goals, the pictures can be used in a variety of ways. When reading, the child needs to find the corresponding color and animal for each page. Or before reading, the child needs to separate the pictures into colors versus animals to target categories. Or the child needs to name each animal or color, using the pictures as reinforcement of the vocabulary…the options for activities are endless.

Ultimately, any child would benefit from and enjoy reading an adapted book. It makes reading more fun! However, there are some children who may benefit more than others. Adapted books would be a great therapeutic tool to use with children with limited receptive or expressive language who have goals to improve their vocabulary or sentence structure. Additionally, children who are working towards increasing their verbal output are ideal clients to use with adapted books, as these activities are supportive and predictable (Delsandro, 2013). Adaptive books are not just therapeutic tools, but could act as great carryover activities to the child’s home environment.

Click here for your   Articulation Checklist
Delsandro, Elizabeth. “Adapted Books.” [PowerPoint]. University of Iowa. Wendell Johnson Speech & Hearing Center, Iowa City, IA. The China Project 2013. Lecture.

Boppy Pillow

Boppy Pillows: Multifunctional Uses

When living in the city, maximizing what space you have and minimizing purchasing frivolous things is the difference between living in a cluttered mess and having an organized abode. Throw a new baby into the mix and their accompanying lists of “must-haves,”  your home can easily change into a cluttered nightmare! To avoid this as much as possible, it is ideal to purchase things with multiple uses.

The boppy pillow is a device that takes up minimal space, but allows for maximal use throughout your child’s first year of life.

Uses for a Boppy Pillow:Boppy Pillow

Shoulder Support for Caregiver During Bottle or Breast- feeding: The boppy pillow, and other nursing pillows, was designed to make newborn feeding an easier process for the caregiver. The device fits around the trunk of the caregiver just above the naval to allow for support of the baby, without causing stress to the shoulder joint.

Introduction to Tummy TimeIt has been well documented that by 3 months of age, infants should be spending about 1 hour of total time on their stomachs each day. For an infant who initially is resistant to tummy time, propping them over a boppy  pillow allows them to build up neck strength while gradually increasing tolerance to tummy time.

Independent Sitting Assistance: The boppy pillow can be used several different ways to aid in independent sitting. Once a child has adequate head control to begin sitting exercises, the boppy pillow can be placed around the child’s trunk to give the child some support at the base, while still allowing the core muscles to develop.

Protective Environment when Learning Protective Responses in Sitting: This can be progressed to having the only the ends of the boppy pillow touching the child at the hips, providing increased degrees of freedom at the trunk while creating a protective environment in case of falls. Falls are in important part of the learning process for something called protective responses. A child who has mastered protective responses will outstretch an arm sideways, forwards, or backwards when exhibiting a loss of balance, in order to slow down their body and protect their head.







Winter Blues

4 Tips for Dealing with the Winter Blues

When you think of the winter holiday season, what comes to mind?  Time with friends and family, shopping the sales, family vacations, breaks from school?  While all of these can bring smiles to people’s faces, the holiday season can also be a time of great stress and worry.  What are your stressors during the holidays?  Perhaps it’s looking after your little ones while they’re off school for a few weeks.  Or maybe you have an overwhelming number of gifts to buy friends and family; a commitment of both time and money.  Maybe you’re just one that doesn’t care for the snow, cold weather, and cloudy days.  Whatever the stressors are that you find difficult to deal with year after year, the first step that can be helpful in dealing with these stressors is identifying them.  While some may begin to feel down because of the additional responsibilities and busy go-go-go related to the holidays, others find that winter comes with less to do and often find themselves cooped up in their home.

4 Tips for Dealing with the Winter Blues

Communicate expectations- With your kids, your spouse, nanny, other family members, etc.  Routines can change with the seasons, especially when dealing with breaks from school.  Let your kids know what to expect during winter break.  If you’ll be at work, who will be looking after them?  Can they have friends over?  How about later bedtimes?  When we know what others expect from us, it’s much easier to give them what they want.Winter Blues

Share responsibilities- Whether it’s purchasing gifts for the family, preparing for (or cleaning up from) a big dinner, or additional child care needs, enlist friends and family to share holiday responsibilities.  People often report feeling guilty asking their loved ones for help of this sort.  The fact is, they’re typically happy to help, just as you would be happy to help any of them.

Utilize your support systems- Similar to the previous tip, however this is in regards to your emotional health.  Often when feeling down, we isolate ourselves.  This, in fact, can serve to prolong and exacerbate our blues.  Some find it helpful to join a support group, speak to a therapist and spend time on self-care.

Recognize if it’s something more- A hallmark of seasonal blues is that…well… they’re seasonal!  A true case of the winter blues is absent during the remainder of the year.  If you find that you often feel down and/or have experienced changes in mood, sleep, and behavior that are getting in the way of daily life and have lasted for two weeks or more, it’s highly recommended to consult a mental health professional.  Taking this step is important to do for not only for yourself, but also for your loved ones.  While this does involve a commitment of your time and money, the benefits of tending to one’s mental health far outweigh the costs.

Click here to watch our webinar on sensory strategies for success over the holidays.