Why School Speech-Language Screens are Important

A school speech-language screening allows a speech-language pathologist to observe the child’s language understanding and use, production of speech sounds, vocal and nasal quality, and social language skills. The screening typically follows a checklist that a speech-language pathologist administers in approximately 15-20 minutes. 

Most screening tools yield a “pass” or “did not pass”. If a child did not pass the screening, then a comprehensive full speech-language evaluation is recommended. Following this process, an intervention plan is created and proposed if needed.

A hearing screening is equally important and recommended upon entering kindergarten. The screening is typically a hand raising game an audiologist administers in approximately 10 minutes. If a child did not pass the screening, a comprehensive full hearing test is typically recommended. Normal hearing in children is important for normal language development.  If a child has hearing problems, it can cause problems with their ability to learn, speak or understand language.

Speech and language skills are used in every part of learning and communicating with other children in school. In kindergarten, children learn the routine and structure of a typical school day and need to be able to follow directions, understand ideas learned in class, communicate well with their peers and teachers, practice early literacy skills and use appropriate social skills within the classroom and during play.

Screenings can be a great tool to determine if a child warrants a full speech-language or hearing evaluation. A screening alone is not diagnostically reliable and should only be used as a tool to decide if an evaluation is necessary.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale 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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Back to School with ADHD

Executive functioning skills are daily requirements for everyone, especially for school-age children who are required to be organized, pay attention, plan, and manage their time. Children with attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder (ADHD) often struggle with executive functioning tasks that can negatively impact their attitude towards school, academic achievement and performance, and overall emotional well-being. 

Common experiences of children with ADHD include:

  • Difficulty remembering to submit or complete assignments
  • Forgetting instructions
  • Poor organizational skills and planning
  • Avoidance of difficult or time consuming tasks
  • Emotional dysregulation

It is imperative that preparations are made to provide skills and systems that will assist children with ADHD to have a successful school year and to enjoy learning.

Some steps to prepare your child with ADHD for the school year include:

  1. Create structure at home, teach and practice executive functioning skills.
  2. Encourage your child to make a to-do list for each day and check off items at the end of the day (parents can also create a list of their own and model this behavior for their child).
  3. Create a system that helps with organization of room and or study area, so items and books can be easily stored and located.
  4. Teach and model accountability by checking in at the beginning and end of the day.
  5. Allow appropriate natural consequences and implement logical consequences for behaviors.
  6. Allow your child to advocate for themselves at home, so that they will be confident to advocate at school.
  7. Work with your child to teach responsibility and develop skills.
  8. Play games that reinforce executive functioning skills (i.e. Jenga, Max, Distraction, AnimaLogic, and No Stress Chess).
  9. Maintain daily routine during days off and weekends.
  10. Get a neuropsychological assessment, so that school-based accommodations can be put in place.

Overall, ensure that your child is learning to manage their time, is building good habits, and is completing tasks.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale 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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Why is Mindset Important for Child Development?

Kids thrive on pleasing their parents, so when your child does something well you want to praise them! Have you ever said “you are so smart” or “you are so talented” at a sport? It’s not that simple, as the way you praise them can impact their confidence and drive. Blog-Mindset-Main-Landscape

As an example, our son picked up a baseball bat at 2 ½ years old and was able to hit a pitched ball (no tee!) that same day. I was an extremely proud dad, especially since all the other parents at the park were clearly impressed. We enthusiastically complimented his natural talent and he seemed so proud. When we signed him up for a t-ball team his enthusiasm faded and we noticed he was less interested in trying to learn the game. We wondered why he was not excited to play.

My wife and I noticed some patterns at home and school. He would only attempt tasks that he felt confident or had already possessed a level of skill. As it turns out, what we were doing when we were praising his natural ability was feeding into his ‘fixed mindset’. With a fixed mindset, Carol Dweck writes in her book Mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or athleticism, are fixed traits and don’t change over time. They believe their talent alone creates success—without effort.

So how do we make sure that we are praising our kids ‘the right way’ to be sure they give their full effort? One idea is to encourage them to have a ‘growth mindset’ – where people believe their skills and abilities can be developed over time through hard work.

When our son took up hockey and was learning to skate we saw this as an opportunity to try out a growth mindset. We were determined to focus on praising his effort since we knew learning to skate would be potentially frustrating for a kid who is naturally athletic. We talked with him beforehand about how hard it would be, that he would fall a lot, but getting back up and trying again was most important and after each session we were enthusiastic about his effort.

And guess what? It worked! Towards the end of the 8 week session he even started coming off the ice bragging to us about how hard he worked. Even though he was not the fastest or best skater on the ice he was proud of his own resilience and what HE accomplished. As parents, we too were bursting with pride for him!

I strongly encourage you to ask yourself how you can start incorporating this type of growth mindset approach with your own children. Learn to recognize how you praise your children and ask questions such as “What did you try that was difficult or challenging today?” I bet you’ll be surprised how quickly you will see a positive impact. Good luck and let us know how it goes!

FIXED MINDSET (Intelligence is static) → Leads to a desire to look smart and therefore a tendency to…→ (Challenges) avoid challenges → (Obstacles) …get defensive or give up easily → (Effort) …see effort as fruitless or worse → (Criticism)…ignore useful negative feedback → (Success of Others) …feel threatened by the success of others → AS A RESULT, they may plateau early and achieve less than their full potential.

GROWTH MINDSET (Intelligence can be developed) → Leads to a desire to learn and therefore a tendency to…→ (Challenges) embrace challenges → (Obstacles) …persist in the face of setbacks → (Effort) …see effort as the path to mastery → (Criticism)…learn from criticism →(Success of Others) …find lessons and inspiration in the success of others → AS A RESULT, they reach ever-higher levels of achievement.

References:

Dweck, C. S. (2006) Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale 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!

5 Tips for a Successful IEP Meeting

Attending your child’s IEP meeting can be a stressful and complex process. Whether you are new to the process or have previously attended IEP meetings, here are some helpful tips to make sure your child is getting appropriate services within the school setting: Blog-IEP-Meetings-Main-Landscape

  1. Understand what your child’s educational disability is. There are 13 different disabilities with specific criteria that must be met. Ask your IEP team members to explain what criteria your child met in order to receive their educational disability.
  2. Ask questions and state your feelings. It can be intimidating to sit around a table with educational professionals. Remember that school service providers have your child’s best interest in mind and want to ensure that you understand the paperwork involved in an IEP meeting. If you do not understand something — ask!
  3. Make sure the school service provider explains the goals for the IEP. Goals should be written based on data, and should be measurable so that you can see whether your child is meeting expected growth targets.
  4. Ask for (and understand) any accommodations listed on the IEP. There may be many accommodations provided to your child, but they should be applicable to what your child needs to succeed in the school setting.
  5. Remember that an IEP is a fluid document. It can be changed and revised as your child develops and their needs change. You can request to have an IEP meeting at any time to address concerns.

Receiving the appropriate services and accommodations can increase your child’s opportunity for your child’s success at school. However, some children need additional support outside the school setting. Mental health professionals can provide services that help your child understand and develop skills to use in all areas of their life — at home, in school, and in the community.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale 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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Is My Child Depressed? What You Should Know About Childhood Depression

What the Numbers Show

Research has shown that children, even babies, have experienced depression. In the United States alone, research studies suggest that up to one percent of babies, four percent of preschool-aged children, five percent of school-aged children, and eleven percent of adolescents meet the diagnostic criteria for Major Depressive Disorder. Blog-Childhood Depression-Main-Landscape-01

It is important to understand the risk factors and symptoms of childhood depression to help your child receive the necessary therapeutic interventions. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for children, adolescents, and young adults aged 10 through 24 (http://jasonfoundation.com/prp/facts/youth-suicide-statistics/). Suicide is significantly linked to depression, so early detection and diagnosis is critical and sometimes even life-saving.

Symptoms of Childhood Depression

Just like adults, children are capable of changes in mood, expressing negative thoughts, but are more likely to show depressive symptoms in behavioral ways. For example, a child experiencing depression may complain of fatigue, stomach aches, headaches, or experience irritability, changes in appetite, and changes in sleep patterns. These physical symptoms, often known as somatic symptoms, are expressed physical aches and pains that are real experiences for your child, although they have no known medical causes. These somatic complaints are often common in children who experience depression. It is important to rule out physical illness or other medical problems with your pediatrician if your child is experiencing these symptoms.

What Parents Can Do to Help

Parents are a child’s greatest advocate and support, so it is important to know what to do to help your child if you suspect that he or she is struggling with depressive symptoms.

  • Talk about depression with your child. Support and encouragement through open communication help your child feel comfortable to express his or her feelings. This lets your child know that he or she is not alone, is loved, and understood.
  • Talk with your child’s pediatrician. Mental health is just as important as your child’s physical health. If you notice your child is experiencing symptoms of childhood depression, call your pediatrician to alert him or her of your child’s emotional concerns. Your pediatrician may recommend a diagnostic screening or refer to an outpatient licensed therapist.
  • Don’t ignore it! Depression is a serious mental illness that cannot be brushed aside or ignored. Ignoring your child’s emotional concerns will not help your child obtain the treatment that he or she needs to overcome depression.

Treatments Offered

Depression is a treatable illness with success rates of up to 80% for children and adolescents who receive therapeutic intervention. The other 20% may respond well to medicinal interventions along with traditional therapy (https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/mind-guest-blog/what-adults-need-to-know-about-pediatric-depression/). Recommended treatments include play therapy, family therapy, and individual talk therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that helps children re-frame their negative thinking patterns to help them change their self-perception and consequently, improve their mood. Cognitive behavioral therapy is goal-oriented, problem-solving focused, and is one of the most commonly used interventions to treat depression.

Medicinal options are another commonly used treatment for children who experience depression, with the goal of reducing depressive symptoms. The majority of children who take antidepressant medications will be able to stop their medication with support from their pediatrician or psychiatrist when their symptoms improve. It is important to note that the use of antidepressant medication for children and adolescents may carry a higher risk for suicidal thoughts for this population. It is imperative to receive ongoing medication monitoring to assess risk of side effects and other interactions.

I Think My Child is Depressed. What Should I Do?

If you suspect that your child may be experiencing depression, it is recommended that you contact your pediatrician. Share your concerns and plan for a medical evaluation to begin the diagnostic process. If medical testing shows no other reason for the fatigue, stomach aches, headaches, sleep, appetite changes, or sadness that often come with depression, a licensed mental health professional will evaluate further to determine the most appropriate treatment plan.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale 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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The Benefits of Contact Sports: Why Your Kids Should Participate

The football draft just completed and the season is right around the corner. And while it may not seem like it now, summer is almost here. All of this means children are and will be interested in getting out there and participating in organized contact sports. But what about the risks of a concussion or other injury? Blog-Contact Sports-Main-Portrait-01

While the risk of injury will always exist in contact sports, there are also many benefits to sports. Further, much progress has been made regarding awareness, and today, families and coaches have a better understanding of the signs and symptoms of concussions. Many experts agree that the benefits of being active and playing sports outweigh the risks of possible injury.

Benefits of organized contact sports include:

  • Respect: Children learn to listen to and respect teammates, coaches and officials. Also, children learn to follow rules and respect opponents.
  • Teamwork: Organized sports teach children to work with and help teammates in order to achieve a common goal. There is no “I” in team!
  • Discipline: Sports show children that discipline and playing by the rules are valuable assets. Penalties will only set you back!
  • Organization: Participation in organized sports teaches children how to stay organized and responsible. They have to be on time, take care of their equipment, and organize amongst themselves in order to succeed.
  • Protection: Through organized sports, children learn to protect themselves, teammates, and opponents.
  • Confidence: Organized sports improves a child’s self-image and confidence. Moreover, sports teach children that they can improve their performance through hard work and practice, a valuable lesson.

And of course, children benefit from regular exercise and activity. Organized sports increase a child’s physical health and cardiovascular conditioning and decrease the risk of childhood obesity.

Here are some ways you can keep your children safe while they participate in contact sports:

  • Be vocal about safety. Engage coaches, officials, and league organizers in conversations about safe and fair play. Discuss these topics with your children as well.
  • Ensure safe and proper equipment. Depending on the sport, make sure your child is dressed in proper equipment, such as helmets, pads, and proper footwear. Make sure all equipment fits properly in order to maximize safety! Discuss your child’s equipment with coaches and league organizers if you aren’t sure.
  • Be aware of concussion signs and symptoms. Headaches, dizziness, imbalance and nausea are the most frequent indicators of concussions. Unconsciousness is not a requirement!
  • Be aware of concussion treatment guidelines. If a concussion is suspected, stop activity immediately and have the child seen by a doctor as soon as possible. Rest, both physical and mental, are key to recovering from a concussion. That, of course, means a break from physical activity, but it also means a break from school and TV.

With awareness and proper precautions, your child can experience the many benefits of organized contact sports in a safe and fun way!

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale 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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Pros and Cons of Fidget Spinners for Kids

If you have children I am sure that you have come in contact with the latest social craze. Fidget spinners. In the past several months there have been Pokémon GO, Minecraft, Roblox, and even YouTube. Like all of these fads, there are positives and negatives for children to using fidget spinners. Blog-Fidget Spinners-proscons-Main-Landscape-01

Pros of fidget spinners:

  1. Good social activity – Children often like to be a part of something that is going on. Having children partake in this healthy activity will help form bonds with other children and be topics of positive communication.
  2. Helps stay focused – Children who have been diagnosed with ADHD or other cognitive impairments are more successful in an activity or assignment if they are able to control their body and movements. One way of accomplishing this is to provide a fidget or other object so their body can get the needed stimulus without them having to leave the classroom or activity.
  3. Helps children get input they otherwise wouldn’t – Similar to play therapy, where a child is engaged in an activity to help them process events that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to, children who use fidget toys are able to get the sensory input they need to help them be successful. Because this sensory input is so important and can come from fidget spinners, we recently published another blog: Fidget Tools: The Bottom Line. In that blog, you will read about the importance of self-regulation when it comes to learning and why a fidget spinner may be necessary for certain children in class.

Cons of fidget spinners:

  1. Not all children are the same – Not all children require the same amount of sensory input to be successful. For the children who do not need it, the fidget toys becomes just a toy and distraction.
  2. Schools are banning them – Because they are becoming a distraction, many schools have been banning them causing students to find other ways to hide them or get around the rules. This can be even more distracting to the child in turn causing the child not to focus or learn in school.
  3. All in moderation – Similar to the other latest fads, when not used properly they do not function in the same manner. When children over use the fidget or do not use it for the intended purpose it just becomes the latest and greatest toy.

If you or your child are wanting to purchase a fidget spinner think about the reasons behind the purchase and decided if this spinner can be beneficial to the child’s learning or will just be a toy they are bringing to class.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale 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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Fidget Spinners: The Bottom Line

A fidget tool is one sensory strategy used to help children achieve self-regulation. Self-regulation is the ability to maintain an optimum level of arousal in order to participate in daily activities.Blog-Fidget Spinners-Main-Landscape (1) Self-regulation is a critical component of learning, as it can impact a student’s attention, emotional regulation and impulse control; a child’s performance in the classroom is directly related to his regulatory state.

A child’s nervous system, specifically the sensory system, needs input to help achieve a regulated state to successfully complete tasks. The theory behind fidget tools is that it provides a sensory experience to increase self-regulation, attention, participation and performance.

During the school day, a child’s body works tirelessly to perform the functions necessary to participate in the classroom. Children need:

  • Muscle control and endurance to sustain a seated, upright position to sit at a desk or on the rug during circle time.
  • Auditory attention to attend to instructions and lessons, while also blocking out surrounding sounds of peers chattering, shuffling papers or chairs scooting across the floor.
  • Visual attention to read work instructions, look at the teacher during lessons and complete written work, while also blocking out other visual distractions around the classroom.
  • Impulse and body control to keep hands, legs and other body parts from touching objects or peers nearby.
  • Emotional control to regulate emotions when happy, sad, confident, frustrated or embarrassed throughout the day.

For some kids, the demands of the classroom environment exceed what their bodies can handle. This isn’t due to a lack of intelligence or willingness to learn; it stems from difficulty coping with a neurologic system that isn’t organizing and responding appropriately to a variety of sensory stimulation from the external world.

The result of a child’s inability to organize his nervous system during the school day is an increase in behaviors that are often deemed inappropriate or distracting in the classroom. Such behaviors may include inability to sit still, wandering around the room, constant touching of objects or peers, laying on the floor, emotional outbursts, not following directions or not understanding how to complete a task.

These behaviors are actually how the child attempts to regulate his body to participate in the classroom. To minimize these behaviors and increase positive participation, it is important that the child is set up for success by providing individualized strategies for him to sustain a regulated state throughout the day.

One of these strategies is the fidget tool. I frequently recommend that my clients use a fidget tool in the classroom to help sustain attention and increase performance. Fidgets come in a variety of forms including Koosh balls, stress balls, small weighted balls, small figurines or fidget spinners.

Fidget tool recommendations are always given with the stipulation that the student must understand that the fidget needs to be used appropriately. I suggest that the parent and teacher review appropriate uses for the fidget with the child (i.e keeping the fidget in the hands, under the desk in the child’s lap), inappropriate uses for the fidget (i.e. throwing the fidget, rolling the fidget, giving the fidget to a friend) and the consequences for inappropriate use of the fidget (i.e. having the fidget taken away). Laying out clear guidelines for the use of the fidget helps students know the expectations and follow the rules.

While several schools have banned the use of fidget spinners in the classroom due to the craze they have caused, as an occupational therapist I support fidget tools as a sensory, regulatory strategy, as long as clear expectations are set and rules are followed. I have seen great success in my clients’ performance and attention when they use fidgets appropriately and not as a toy.

Does that mean my child needs a fidget spinner?

Fidget spinners or tools may not be suitable for everyone. Each person’s sensory system will respond differently to various strategies and may be needed at different times during the day. Some children benefit from fidget tools during writing activities, some may benefit from the tool during lecture periods and others may require use of the fidget more frequently. There may also be children who have difficulty with self-regulation where fidget spinners or fidget tools cause increased distraction or dysregulation. Check out our other blogs for ideas on other strategies that may be incorporated in the classroom to promote optimal performance.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale 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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Fostering Independence in Your Child

Picture this: your 6 year old carries his cereal bowl to the sink, leaving a trail of milk along the way. Your initial impulse might be to tell him to leave the bowl and let you take care of it. Blog-Independence-Main-Landscape

Picture this: your 11 year old daughter has just showered and washed her hair in less than 15 minutes and you highly suspect that either she didn’t use shampoo, or didn’t thoroughly wash herself, or both. You have the impulse to tell her to come over so you can check to see if her hair is thoroughly rinsed.

Finally, picture this: your 12 year old son is putting the finishing touches on his science fair project and you see that his poster is written in black ink with no additional color or pictures. You have the impulse to tell him that what his poster really needs is a pop of bold color to make it stand out.

What do these scenarios have in common? They are opportunities for our children to learn independence!

One of the toughest jobs of a parent is to allow a child to fall down, scrape a knee, lose a championship, receive a low grade, wear mismatched clothing, and tell a botched joke. Taking care of, preventing disappointment/messes/hurt feelings/embarrassment and a long list of other unpleasant experiences is part of the fabric of our parenting instincts, however, by doing these things we deny our children learning opportunities that they need as much as the shelter, food and love that we provide.

How do we foster independence? We accept the fact that childhood gets messy, uncomfortable, embarrassing, unpredictable and sad. We allow ourselves to feel the discomfort that we know our child may feel, and we tell ourselves that the feeling will pass and our child will be stronger and more resilient because of it. As we allow our child to pour his own milk, make her bed, select his outfit, style her hair and create that special Playdough, glitter and Styrofoam center piece, we promote problem solving, self-motivation, creativity and independence.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale 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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IEP Meetings From a Mom’s Perspective

I have worked for North Shore Pediatric Therapy for more than two years in the marketing department. I thought I was familiar with the many challenges families go through with their children, Blog-IEP-Meetings-Main-Landscapehowever, the idea of going through “the IEP process” never crossed my mind, until I had to.

When my son started kindergarten, we had some concerns about certain behaviors, but honestly really thought they were only phases. A few weeks into the school year as they began practicing drills, he had a severe panic attack requiring help from the school social worker. At that time, his teacher recommended he begin seeing the social worker more frequently and that led to our process of seeking a full evaluation to really understand him.

He was evaluated by Dr. Greg Stasi at NSPT and given a diagnosis of Anxiety Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder. It was then that we were faced with the dreadful IEP meetings. I had heard so many stories of hardship parents faced when fighting for their child’s needs. As a result, I went into the process expecting a fight, and boy would they get one if necessary because in my mind, nothing was going to come between my child getting the help he needed.

Because of my job, I am fortunate enough to have access to excellent professionals and resources, who understand the IEP process, and who helped me prepare for the initial IEP meeting. I was ready for that day. And you know what happened? I didn’t have to fight. I was so fortunate to have a wonderful team wanting and willing to give my son everything he needed to succeed. Everything I was prepared to fight for was already part of their plan, too.

I know this isn’t typical, and so many families struggle to get their child’s needs met.

Here are some tips, from a mom’s perspective on how to approach IEP meetings to get what you, and your child, need:

  1. Be prepared. Those same resources I have access to because of my job…guess what? YOU have access to those same things! NSPT has so many blogs and infographics to help you begin your journey. Having a full neuropsych evaluation is a real plus as it lends a direction for goal development and is appreciated by the district staff.
  2. Be understanding. Understand that those on the other side of the table really do want to help. Often they are restricted by legal mandates. So you may find that there are questions you ask where they can’t fully answer.
  3. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask any and all questions you have in order to understand each element being addressed. It goes fast. And they use a lot of terms you don’t recognize. Stop them and ask.
  4. Bring help. Don’t be afraid to bring outside support, such as a school advocate, to help speak on your behalf. They know the rules and can help you “fight.”
  5. Don’t sign the plan if you are not happy. You will be asked to sign the plan at the end. If you are not comfortable, don’t do it, unless it’s on the condition that you are requesting another meeting to go over the details again to re-write the goals.
  6. Hold Accountability. As the school year continues, don’t be afraid to check in on the team, the therapists, and the teacher to ensure all accommodations are being met.

Be the voice. Remember, you are your child’s voice. Don’t be afraid to speak up.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale 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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