9 Ways to Make Gym Class Successful for a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder

A class full of students in an open gymnasium can make for a very overwhelming experience for a child with sensory processing disorder. Echoing voices, shoes squeaking on the floor, whistles blowing, the smell of sweat and cleaning agents, bright colors and moving objects are enough to increase anyone’s stress level. Blog Sensory Processing Disorder Gym-Class-Main-Landscape

Throw in the demand to attend to instructions, learn new motor skills, and keep up with your more advanced peers. For a child with sensory processing disorder, this could potentially become a recipe for disaster.

Or, with the right structure and supports put in place, this time can be a regular opportunity for fun, growth, and learning!

Below are 9 suggestions to help children with sensory processing disorder feel successful in gym class and participate to the fullest extent possible:

  1. Provide the child with an out. Let him know that if the experience becomes too overwhelming he can let the teacher know he needs a break. The student could sit outside the room for a moment, take a trip to the restroom, or get a drink of water. Sometimes a brief break is all that’s needed.
  2. Be aware of the student’s particular needs and allow accommodations. If a student is over responsive to noise, allow the student to wear noise-reducing headphones. If a student has tactile defensiveness, avoid putting them on teams with jerseys.
  3. Break down new activities as much as possible. Teach one skill at a time and provide multiple modes of instruction.
  4. When providing instruction, ask students to repeat the rules or act out a scenario. It may be helpful to repeat important points and explain why the rule exists in order to be sure they are understood.
  5. Modify games or exercises as necessary. Students will be at different levels and physical activity can present unique challenges for those with sensory processing disorder. Provide simpler options when possible.
  6. Establish space boundaries. Using visual cues for personal space and working in small groups can relieve anxiety for those with tactile defensiveness. Visual cues may also be helpful in showing students where they should position themselves for games and exercises.
  7. Take extra care to maintain a positive environment. Emphasize the importance of sportsmanship and supportive language.
  8. Avoid bringing attention to a skill the child is having difficulty with in front of his peers. When playing games in large groups, it may be best to avoid placing the responsibility of a key position on students who are already experiencing increased stress.
  9. Provide feedback to parents. Let the student’s parents know what skills you are or will be working on so that the child can get in extra practice at home. This can be a big confidence booster for children and allow them to fully master skills with their peers.

Remember to keep it fun! Gym class is not only important for educating students on specific skill sets, it also lays the foundation for their attitudes towards physical activity in the future.

Recognize that not all students with sensory processing disorder will have the same strengths and difficulties. Meeting a student where they’re at and finding their particular strengths to build on is the best way to set them up for success!

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, 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.

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Why Are Occupational Therapy Screens Necessary for Schools?

Occupational therapists are skilled in assessing how a child’s sensory processing abilities, fine motor skills, visual motor skills and gross motor skills impact performance and function in daily life including self-care, play and academics. Proficient skills in these areas are imperative for children to be successful in the classroom environment.blog-occupational-therapy-screenings-main-landscape

  • Sensory processing skills support a child’s ability to learn. A child who is unable to process environmental stimuli effectively and efficiently will be unavailable to learn. Children with sensory processing dysfunction may have difficulty sitting still for an extended period of time in their desks or during circle time, they may be unable to pay attention when others around them are talking or they may have difficulty standing in line without touching, or hanging on a friend in front of them. These behaviors are a result of poor processing of the vestibular, auditory and proprioceptive systems, respectively.
  • Efficient fine motor skills are necessary to complete academic work. From writing to cutting with scissors and keyboarding to making crafts, fluid fine motor skills help children complete classroom activities and homework.
  • Efficient visual motor skills provide a foundation for writing and copying from the board as well as completing math work.
  • Efficient gross motor skills are important within the school environment for moving safely throughout the school and classroom, engaging with peers on the playground or during gym, and sustaining appropriate posture while sitting at a desk to complete work.

When a child struggles in any of these areas, it may not always be obvious. Oftentimes, sensory processing difficulties go unnoticed for many years and the child is left with academic or behavioral challenges. Therefore, occupational therapy screens are essential for schools.  An occupational therapist’s knowledge of child development, and its impact on daily functioning, can help identify children who would benefit from therapy services.

The screens can also be used as a preventative measure to ensure that a child’s development is on track and the child will have the foundational skills necessary to be available to learn. Occupational therapy screens also allow the opportunity for OTs to educate and collaborate with teachers and educators to provide suggestions that they can share with families and use in the classroom.

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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5 Tips to Help Your Child Through Failing Grades

As a new school year has begun, your child may be facing quite a few new changes in the classroom, whether that be a new school, new teachers and peers, or even new, and challenging blog-failing-grades-main-landscapecoursework. These changes can generate some difficulties in your student in terms of following academic or social expectations. Maybe they begin getting notes sent home about their inappropriate behavior in class or you begin finding failing grades on recent assignments. Either way, these can be discouraging to parents and their student. As a parent, it is important to identify these challenges early on and follow through with keeping your child on track for their own success.

Here are a few tips on how to help your child through failing grades:

  1. Be proactive. Parents should contact the teacher as soon as they notice their child having difficulty in a class. Follow up with any notes home or call a teacher to have a conference about the recent failing grade on an assignment. Ask the teacher for extra assignments or activities that can be done at home. It’s important to develop a plan with the teacher for collaboration purposes. The teacher may also have better insight into more specific skills that need to be acquired.
  1. Create a routine. Creating an after school routine at home provides clear expectations and consistency. This routine can and should include homework completion, meal time with family, and a bedtime routine. Building a positive routine around homework completion and continued practice can not only provide a balance of work and play, but can also build strong sense of responsibility in your student. Try and remove or minimize other distractions during the homework routine and create more time dedicated to helping your child with homework.
  1. Set expectations. As a parent, provide expectations and follow through. These expectations may begin with something small such as practicing number cards for 5 minutes before bed or making sure all books are brought home for the appropriate homework every night for a week. Whatever those expectations are in the initial stages, follow through and provide the appropriate praise and reinforcement contingent on the completion. It may be helpful to set up expectations with the teacher so you can map out short and long term goals.
  1. Consistently provide encouragement and support. Failing grades may not only be disappointing to the parents, they may also be discouraging to the student. Provide praise and positive reinforcement for even the smallest of progress and the continuation of hard work in and outside of the classroom. Continue to be an advocate for support. Offer help when needed while still requiring the student to complete the work independently.
  2. Look for underlying problems. While discussing specific difficulties with the teacher, look for potential underlying problems. Can there be difficulties with environmental variables such as, not being able to see or hear the teacher, forgetting to write down homework assignments, or being distracted by other classroom students or activities? Is there possibly an underlying learning disability? Is the child having difficulty attending to tasks? Whatever it may be, it is important to identify these things to make appropriate changes necessary for success.

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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Bullying Warning Signs

Bullying is an ongoing concern for parents, care givers and teachers. How to tell if your child is being bullied can be difficult, as bullying can take on many forms. The act is a deliberate imbalanceblog-bullying-warning-signs-main-landscape of power; and can be physical, emotional, sexual or verbal.

Having a working knowledge of warning signs is essential for supportive parenting. If your child has some of the warning signs below, it is not a guarantee that they are being bullied. Open and honest dialogue with your children will provide more insight into the potential causes of some warning signs.

Below are a variety of warning signs that could signify your child is the victim of bullying:

  • Noticing your child has damaged belongings; this can span from clothing, to book bags, to text books, etc.
  • Unexplained physical injuries like bruises or cuts
  • Tendency to isolate from friends and peers
  • An increase in anxiety or fear related to attending school and often will explore opportunities to miss school (i.e. Excuses, faking sick, etc.)
  • Changes in sleeping or eating patterns; suffers from frequent nightmares, poor appetite
  • Appears sad, upset or angry when returning from school
  • Decrease in academic achievement
  • Health concerns; most often frequent stomach aches, headaches, etc.

Beginning a discussion with our children about bullying can be challenging, as many kids tend to shy away from disclosing this information. The most essential component is that as a parent you remain calm and supportive, not reactive to what your child discloses.

There are several questions below to guide a conversation related to bullying:

  • There has been a lot of bullying in the news lately. How does your school handle bullying? Tell me about a time you saw someone being bullied, or experienced it yourself. How did you handle it?
  • I’m worried about [insert behavior/symptom/action]. I’m wondering if you could tell me more about what is going on?
  • Tell me about your friends this year. Who are you spending time with, and what do you like about them?
  • Who do you spend time with at lunch and recess? Tell me about your bus rides home. With whom do you sit?
  • Are there any kids at school who you really don’t like? Why don’t you like them? Do they ever pick on you or leave you out of things?

If your child discloses that they are being bullied, it is essential that you remain calm. Overreaction can result in regret of disclosure or a tendency to limit discussing such content in the future. As a parent, the strongest role you can take if your child is being bullied is to provide support and care, validate to your child that this is not their fault and that you are here to love and support them.

At times, children can be very hesitant about disclosing bullying due to fear of retaliation. If you notice concerning symptoms, but your child denies, it is appropriate to reach out to your student’s teacher and express concern.

The following questions may provide greater insight into your child’s experience during the school day:

  • With whom does my child interact on a daily basis?
  • Tell me about my child’s peer interactions. Which are going well? Are there any you find concerning?
  • Have you noticed any behavioral changes within my child over the past [days, weeks, months]?
  • What is one thing my child does very well in school, and what is one concern you have for my child.

If you suspect your child is being bullied, beginning dialogue and providing a safe non-judgmental space is the first step in supporting your child. If you have greater concerns, or have information that your child is being bullied, it is important that this be addressed as soon as possible. Reach out to your school, principals, teachers, and notify them of your concerns. Provide your child with support and listen when needed, and if appropriate, provide the access to a licensed mental health provider for additional care.

References:

https://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/warning-signs/

http://www.violencepreventionworks.org/public/bullying_warning_signs.page

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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Collaboration Between Teachers and Related Service Providers

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary to collaborate means “to work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something.” When we work with children we are constantly blog-collaboration-main-landscape-01collaborating in order to provide children with the best possible education. Within a school there is a lot of collaboration that is evident between teachers, teachers and paraprofessionals, teachers and administrators, as well as between teachers and parents/families. Within special education there is a lot of collaboration that occurs as well in the school setting. But what about outside the school setting?

Many of the students who receive special education services within the school also receive services outside of the school setting. It is essential that the lines of communication are open not only within schools but with these other related service providers that are involved in a specific student’s daily life. Every individual or company that is involved in the well-being and education of the child should be communicating their role and how that can be facilitated throughout the child’s day to day life. This collaboration is key to ensuring that the child is receiving the best services and education. So how do we go about collaborating with other service providers?

There are many ways to collaborate. The key to collaboration is communication! The parent is the mediator since they have direct contact with teachers and the other service providers.

Below are some important ways that we can open up the flow of communication:

What parents can do:

  • Provide each teacher and/or provider with a contact information document.
    • This should include the names and contact information of teachers and other providers who work with your child.
  • Check–in with the various adults that work with your child to ensure that they have gotten in touch.
  • Provide updates yourself to teachers or other service providers about your child’s goals and progress.

What teachers can do:

  • Ask parents for contact information of other service providers that the student might be seeing (if the parent doesn’t provide you with this information).
  • Reach out to other service providers.
  • Update other service providers throughout the school year in regards to the student’s performance and goals.

What service providers can do:

  • Ask parents for contact information of other services providers that the student might be seeing (if the parent doesn’t provide you with this information).
  • Reach out to other service providers
  • Update other service providers and teachers throughout the year in regards to the student’s performance and goals.

The points made above are essential to ensuring that the lines of communication have been opened and everyone can begin to collaborate!

Collaborating is more than just emailing and making phone calls with updates. It should also involve meeting in person as a group and individually to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Once introductions have been completed a meeting should be arranged with all professionals and the family. This provides everyone with the opportunity to meet! In addition, it gives everyone the time to sit down and discuss the child so that everyone can ensure that they are all working together allowing fluidity between the variety of settings that the child will be in.

One meeting is not enough! Make sure at the end of the meeting that a date and time is set for another meeting a few months down the line. This meeting would be more about progress, new goals, successes or challenges that any of the professionals or family are having with the child.

Collaboration is all about teamwork! Working as a team is essential for the success of the children that we work with. We need to ensure that we continue to keep the lines of communication open and work with each other and the family. It is important to loop all professionals the family into decision making processes and program planning. It is also important to share a child’s success and progress so that the same high standard and expectations are held for the child no matter the setting. Collaboration is a truly important component in ensuring that our children are provided with the best services and education.

For additional information, check out our other Autism and school blogs.

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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Teacher Tips: Helping Your Students Stay Organized

Organization is a fundamental skill for success in school and beyond, and it is crucial for it to be developed and reinforced early on. Many children struggle with organization and many teachers seek ways in which to aid in the development of good organizational skills. Executive function includes time management, planning and organization, and teachers can play an important role in the development of these skills. blog-organized-students-main-landscape

Check out some ideas below to help your students get and stay organized!

An Environment for Success

How can teachers setup their classroom to create a positive learning environment?
An organized classroom promotes organization habits among students and makes the teacher’s job easier.

  • Ensure that chair and desks are arranged in a way that allows for flexibility to fit group instruction as well as small group work.
  • It is helpful for students to have a supply center, which allows them to independently prepare and manage their materials. It may contain items such as scissors, hole punchers, pencil sharpeners, etc.
  • A homework center allows for a designated area where homework-related activities can be centralized.

Homework management

How can teachers develop effective systems for managing homework?
A clear routine and system for assigning, collecting, and storing homework will make managing homework assignments easier.

  • Designate a regular place for recording homework, whether a portion of the chalkboard, whiteboard, or online so that it is easily accessible to all students.
  • Establish a regular time for assigning homework. It may be beneficial to assign homework at the beginning of a lesson, so that students are not writing the assignment down as class is ending. This also allows for time to answer any questions regarding the assignment and can greatly increase homework completion rates.
  • Keep a master planner and homework log where all the assignments are recorded by either the teacher or a responsible student. This can be a class resource for students who are absent or are missing assignments.
  • Extra handouts can be kept in a folder, a file organizer or online. This way students who miss or lose assignments have the responsibility of obtaining the necessary papers.
  • Designate a physical structure, such as a paper tray, to collect homework rather than using class time to collect papers.
  • Establish a regular time for collecting homework. Consider using a “5 in 5” reminder, requiring students to complete 5 tasks in the first 5 minutes of class, such as turning in homework and writing down new assignments.
  • File graded work in individual hanging folders to decrease class time devoted to handing out papers.
  • To encourage organization, have students designate sections of their binder for (1) homework to be complete, (2) graded work, (3) notes and (4) handouts. Consider periodic checks and provide feedback.
  • Have students track their grades on grade logs to provide them with the opportunity to calculate their grades and reflect on their performance.
  • At the end of a grading period, encourage students to clean out their binders and discuss which papers are worth keeping and why. Encourage them to invest in an accordion file or crate for hanging files to keep important papers.

Time Management

How can teachers structure classroom time efficiently and teach students time management skills?

  • Timers provide students with a concrete visual reminder of the amount of time remaining for a task. They are a great tool for group work, timed tests or silent reading.
  • Post a daily schedule in a visible place to establish the day’s plan. Present the schedule to the students and refer to the schedule when making modifications to model time management skills.
  • Display a monthly calendar to provide students with regular visual reminders of upcoming events. These calendars are also beneficial for modeling backwards planning.
  • Carve out time for organization. Devote a short amount of time for students at the end of the day to reflect on their learning, manage their materials, prioritize homework assignments and make a plan for their completion.

Materials Management

How can teachers help students manage their materials?

  • Designate a short amount of time once a week for students to dump out and reorganize backpacks and clean up lockers.
  • When students finish tests or tasks early encourage them to use the downtime to organize their materials.
  • Have students use labels, racks or dividers to keep their items clean and organized.

Resources:

Rush NeuroBehavioral Center. (2006, 2007). Executive Functions Curriculum.

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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Preparing a Teacher to Work With Your Child With Autism

Beginning a new school year with any child can be harrowing for parents! You may wonder, “Will my child get the support that he needs?” or “How will I communicate with her teacher?” andBlog-Autism-and-Teachers-Main-Landscape “What can I do as a parent to reinforce what is happening in the classroom?” These questions and worries can be even greater when the child in question has a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. The first step in starting any school year is to think proactively and approach your child’s classroom teacher prior to beginning the year!

Below are some tips for having a fun and successful year for you and your child with autism:

  • Communication – Communication is key! It is vital to communicate with your child’s teacher before starting school. Letting the teacher know all about your child and his or her strengths will help the teacher provide the best care in the school setting.  Additionally, set up means to communicate in an ongoing manner with your child’s teacher—this could be email, notes in your child’s backpack, or even a notebook that the child writes in themselves outlining their day!
  • Reinforcement – Give the teacher a list of things that are motivating to your child that the teacher can incorporate into your child’s day, and keep him or her learning!
  • Triggers – Letting the teacher know what can be triggering to your child will help avoid potential problematic behaviors in the classroom. This allows school staff to be proactive about managing potential challenging behavior.
  • Calming strategies – Let the teacher know what works best for calming your child down if he or she becomes upset.

All in all, STAY POSITIVE and BE PATIENT! Remember that the beginning of the school year is a time of getting comfortable and establishing routines…for kids and adults alike!

For additional information, check out our other Autism and school blogs.

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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This blog was co-written with Jennifer Bartell.

Jennifer BartellJennifer Bartell is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and educator with over a decade of experience working with learners diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, double majoring in psychology and music performance, and earning a place on the Dean’s List. Following a move to New York City, Jennifer received her Master of Special Education degree from the City University of New York—Hunter College, wherein she specialized in Behavior Disorders and became dual certified to teach both the general and special education populations. While in New York, Jennifer was a part of the opening of the innovative NYC Autism Charter School—the first of its kind on the east coast—and had the opportunity to work in classrooms with reduced and one-to-one ratios and a curriculum created using the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis. Here she worked extensively with learners between the ages of 3 and 18, and presenting with an array of challenges, skill deficits, and abilities. Jennifer has vast experience in creating programming for community-based instruction, adaptive daily living skills, and self-care, yet also employs her education background to provide high quality academic and cognitive services as well. A well-respected member of the home- and school-based organizations for whom she has provided services, Jennifer is frequently called upon to provide professional development and training for her colleagues and those she is supervising. Jennifer has presented at a number of professional Applied Behavior Analysis and education conferences for fellow educators, behavior analysts, and parents around the New York area.

Top Sensory Strategies for Use in the Classroom

Promoting your child’s success at school can be a challenging task, particularly for parents of childrenSensory Strategies with sensory processing difficulties. Communication between parents, teachers and school personnel is critical for establishing a safe, supportive and enriching environment. Children with sensory integration difficulties may have enormous problems in the classroom, not because of a lack of intelligence or willingness to learn, but rather resulting from difficulty coping with a neurologic system that isn’t organizing and responding appropriately to a variety of sensory stimulation from the external world.

A well- organized sensory system is important for everything a child does, especially when it comes to maintaining focus and attention in the environment of a classroom. While the child with sensory integration difficulties can benefit from a sensory-smart classroom, so can every child. All children benefit from a calm, distraction free classroom where they can feel more in control, and in turn, improve their schoolwork and social skills.

The following is a compilation of sensory strategies for use in the classroom to promote the learning potential of every child, including those with sensory processing challenges:

Provide “Heavy Work” Opportunities:

Heavy work gives necessary input to the child’s body, helping him develop an improved body awareness and regulating his system. Allow the child to take responsibility in the classroom by completing specific “jobs.”

  • Carry books to the library, or to another teacher
  • Hand out papers to the class
  • Watering plants in the classroom
  • Push/pull heavy items in the classroom, i.e., chairs, boxes, class supplies
  • Erase the board
  • Empty wastebaskets or recycling

Seating Modifications:

Providing movement opportunities on the child’s seat, or at his desk is a great way to provide necessary sensory input many children crave, while also helping to increase their attention during stationary, table top tasks.

  • Tie a Theraband around the front legs of the child’s chair
  • Provide a wiggle seat to place on the chair surface
  • Allow time for “chair push-ups,” especially before seated writing tasks

Keep Those Hands Busy:

Many children with sensory processing challenges have a need for tactile input, resulting in constant touching of objects, and other classmates. For these kiddos, maintaining an optimal arousal level with regular (and non-distracting) tactile input is important.

  • Place a Velcro strip on, or inside of the child’s desk, or on the edge of his seat
  • Give the child a small bottle of lotion (with a calming scent, such as lavender) to place in his desk, or in his back pack, for those times when he needs to move his hands
  • Experiment with fidgets in a variety of forms: worry stone, paperclips, squeeze ball, necklace fidgets, bracelets, zipper pull fidgets, etc. (For some children, however, these items may be too distracting. If the object is decreasing attention, opt for the sensory input as noted above with Velcro placed on the desk itself.)

Movement Breaks:

All children need frequent breaks from work to get up and stretch and move their bodies. Frequent gross motor breaks help to “wake-up” the body and reset the brain, increasing arousal levels, resulting in improved attention and a calm body

  • Provide simplified yoga routines
  • Try jumping jacks, or marching around the classroom (or at the desk)
  • Try “animal walks,” such as bear walk, crab walk, or frog jumps
  • Recess time with active play including running, jumping and climbing

Reducing Visual and Auditory Stimulus:

For those children who become overwhelmed with too much visual input, or noise in the classroom, try the following strategies to help them maintain attention and focus.

  • Use low light, or natural light as much as possible versus fluorescent lighting
  • Provide a “quiet space” in one corner of the classroom where children can complete work with less distractions (adding beanbags to sit in this space would be a great addition as well)
  • Play quiet, rhythmic music
  • Eliminate clutter on bulletin boards
  • Place a curtain or sheet over open shelves containing games, art materials, toys that may be distracting

Snack Time:

Chewing, biting, or sucking on hard, crunchy items can be very regulating and calming for kids with sensory challenges.

  • Parents can pack chewy food items such as a bagel, or dried fruit to provide great oral proprioceptive input
  • Teachers may want to allow a water bottle with a thick straw to be kept at the desk (adding a little lemon to the water may help arousal levels as well)
  • Parents can pack a wide-mouth straw for eating items such as yogurt and applesauce
  • Provide crunchy fruit and veggie snacks such as apples, carrots and celery

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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Toilet Training While in Preschool? Communication is Key!

Megan Sexton, director of Creative Scholars Preschool in Chicago, shares important insights about how to approach the topic of potty training with your child’s preschool.

The toddler years are joyful, busy times of great growth for children! These are the years where children Blog-Toilet-Training-Main-Portraitare finding their sense of self, exerting their will, and discovering what effects they have on the world. With these new discoveries comes a toddler’s desire for independence driven by a desire to find a sense of control over themselves and their world. Because of this, learning self-help skills such as toilet training can be a stressful time for children and their families especially when you also consider that approaches to teaching a child to use the bathroom independently vary greatly from family to family.

When a child is enrolled in preschool and is in the process of toilet training, the potential for differences in approaches multiplies and another layer of anxiety can build up for children and families. This is where the importance of frequent and clear communication between you and your child’s teachers comes into play. In fact, this ongoing communication should begin even before the toilet training process begins! Some parents are unsure about when is the best time to begin potty training and will rely on the recommendation of a toddler teacher who has likely helped many children and their families with the toilet training process. Other parents have a clear timeline of when they would like to begin the process for their child. Whichever way works the best for you, it’s important to have those conversations with your child’s school. This helps get everyone on the same page and sets the child up for success.

What do teachers want to know?

In order to best support children and families, there are a few pieces of information that are helpful when shared with your child’s school.

  • What words does your family use when talking about body parts and elimination? If a teacher doesn’t know a family term for something, your child may become confused when the teachers use different vocabulary.
  • Does your boy sit or stand when trying to use the toilet? Some little boys find it uncomfortable to sit because they don’t like having to direct their penis down and accidentally getting their finger wet. Others don’t like to stand because they become nervous about the potential of falling forwards.
  • What signals does your child’s body give when they have to use the bathroom? Do they wiggle? Do they stand in a corner? Will they use words to let someone know they need to use the restroom?
  • How do they react when they have an accident? Let your teachers know if they get embarrassed or afraid that they will get in trouble if they have an accident.
  • How often do you want your child to try to use the toilet? Some children are able to inform teachers when they have to go, others get so involved in their play that they need reminders to try.
  • Is your child wearing pull-ups or underpants? If your child is wearing underpants, do they use pull-ups at nap?
  • Is your child nervous about anything, for example, when the toilet is flushed?
  • What can your child do independently and what do they need support with? Can they pull up their pants, but struggle with buttons or zippers?
  • How do you want soiled clothing to be handled? Do you want teachers to keep underpants that have had a poop accident or just throw them away? Do you have a dirty clothes bag you would like the soiled clothes placed in or can teachers put the clothes into a plastic grocery bag? Where do you want the soiled clothes placed to make it easy to find at dismissal time?

Make a communication plan.

Whether your child attends a half day program in which all children are picked up at the same time or they attend a full day program in which children are picked up at various points in the evening, it is important to make sure that teachers and parents are able to connect regarding your child’s day and their progress with using the restroom during the day. Maybe your child has the same teachers the entire day or maybe they have a different set of teachers in the afternoon than they do in the morning. How do you make sure that everyone is on the same page?

Some ideas to help maintain this two-way communication, in addition to face-to-face conversations, include:

  • Keeping a notebook in your child’s cubby where each teacher and parent can write notes including how many times your child tried to use the toilet, how many times they were successful, and any notes regarding soiled clothes or questions.
  • Having a toilet use log with times across the top in which teachers and parents make check marks under the times the child tried and went to the restroom.
  • Sending the teachers a follow up email at the end of the day asking how things went.

When parents and teachers work together and have clear communication, the stress of toilet training can be greatly reduced; everyone ends up working together to help the children feel successful and proud of their latest accomplishment!

Megan-Sexton-1Megan Sexton has a master’s degree in child development from the Erikson Institute. She has taught children aged toddler through first grade and is currently the director at Creative Scholars Preschool. Megan believes in the power of play, inquiry, and relationships in shaping a child’s early years.

How Teachers Can Help a Child With Tourettes

When you look at someone with Tourettes, all you see or hear are the tics. You don’t see the constant struggle, the constant commotion that is going on inside the person’s body. Although it might be easy to assume that when a person is not ticcing, they are okay or calm or not experiencing anything related to Tourettes, more often than not, that assumption would be entirely incorrect.

Here are a few tips on how teachers can help a child with Tourettestourettesteachermain

  1. Trust that if the person did not have an urge to tic, they would not be doing the tic. Know that although there might be some level of control for some kids some of the time, it is difficult to control and takes an inordinate amount of energy. The consequence of “not-ticcing” is often delayed tic-bursts, decreased concentration, lost instructional time and/or social time, and muscle soreness.  The consequence of ticcing is often embarrassment, shame, isolation, muscle soreness, decreased concentration, loss of instructional and/or social time.
  2. Ignore the tics. Don’t worry what the other kids will think or if they will become distracted. Be the role model. Keep on and so will the kids. They will get used to the noises just like you would get used to hearing the sound of a fire truck if you lived near a station or the smell of baked goods if you worked in a bakery.  If the noises bother you, just remember they bother the child a whole lot more…and he can’t walk away from himself.
  3. Remember that, as bad as the tics can be, they are usually just the tip of the iceberg. The common Tourette Syndorome (TS) co-morbid conditions are OCD, ADHD and Learning Disabilities.  Your student is battling, not only a body out of control, but some major disabilities that even adults have difficulty living with.  Remember this is a real, neurological disorder that the child did not ask for and does not want.
  4. Learn as much as you can about the disorder(s) and the child. Just because you knew one kid with Tourettes in the past does not mean that you know anything about the current student. Listen to the parents. Contact the child’s private clinicians. Ask questions. Above all, if the adults in the child’s life feel it is appropriate, talk to the child!  Let him know you are trying to understand, that you will do your best to protect him from the bullies, and that you care.  Let him know it’s okay to tic if he needs to and come up with safe places if he needs to leave the room.
  5. Does your student have behavioral issues? It’s possible that things you think are “bad behaviors” are manifestations of Tourettes. The shouting out? Tourettes. Doing what the teacher says NOT to do?  TS is a disorder of disinhibition. If the child hears “Don’t run” he will most likely feel compelled to run. If he knows he shouldn’t be saying certain words or doing certain things, the premonitory urge will center around those words or those actions and it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for him to control the urge.
  6. Work with administrators to schedule a teacher in-service for all the adults working with the child, including the related arts teachers, lunch monitors and bus drivers. TS does not go away when the child leaves your room. Children with TS need to know that there are in a safe place with understanding adults who will support them.
  7. With parent permission, set up a peer in-service. Have someone who is knowledgeable about TS speak to the students. There are organizations that have teens, young adults and adults who can provide this service.  This will help all the children, including the one with TS, feel less fearful and more comfortable with each other.

Click here for more information on what it’s like to live with Tourettes.

Meet-With-A-Neuropsychologist
About the Author: Shari was the 3rd person in IL to be diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome (1976). Her parents co-founded the IL TS chapter along with several others, including Joe Bliss. In 1978, while at a board meeting in her parent’s home, Mr. Bliss told Shari about his theory of premonitory urges and provided some tips and tricks on how to control the tics. It was the first time Shari felt “understood” and attributes much of her success to Mr. Bliss and his strategies. She co-founded the Illinois Tourette Resource Network in 2014 and is honored that she can continue the legacy of providing TS support to the Illinois community.