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Here’s What You Can Expect from a Neuropsychological Evaluation

A child may be referred for a neuropsychological evaluation when there are concerns about one or more areas of development. This can include cognition, academics, attention, memory, language, socialization, emotional, behavioral, motor, visual-spatial, and adaptive functioning. Blog-Neuropsychological-Evaluation-Main-Landscape

A neuropsychological evaluation aids the psychologist in determining an appropriate diagnosis, such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Specific Learning Disorder, Language Disorder, and emotional and behavioral disorders. An evaluation can also be recommended if your child has been diagnosed with a medical condition such as Down syndrome, epilepsy, or a traumatic brain injury (TBI). The purpose of the evaluation would be to identify your child’s strengths and weaknesses in order to provide appropriate treatment recommendations, determine progress and response to intervention, and monitor functioning.

After your pediatrician has made a referral for a neuropsychological evaluation, you will need to schedule an intake appointment, which is typically an hour long.

What to Expect During the Neuropsychological Intake:

  • Inform the psychologist about your areas of concern
  • Provide information about your child’s history
    • Including medical, developmental, academic, attention, behavior, motor, and social history
  • Inform the psychologist of any current, or past, services your child receives (e.g., speech language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, individual therapy, academic tutoring)

What to Bring to the Neuropsychological Intake:

  • Completed intake paperwork
  • Any prior psychological/neuropsychological evaluation (if applicable)
  • Your child’s most recent 504 Plan or IEP (if applicable)
  • Any recent private intervention evaluation (e.g., speech language therapy, occupational therapy)
  • Your child’s most recent report card or standardized exam scores
  • Any relevant medical information (e.g., EEG report, CT/MRI scan report)

After the intake, you will schedule the testing session for your child.  Most of the time, testing is completed in one day (5 hours of testing), but occasionally the testing will need to be completed over two days.  The psychologist will create a neuropsychological battery based on the areas of concern; however, the battery could be adjusted on the day of testing.  Typically, this occurs if another area of concern arises during the testing session.

What to Bring on the Day of the Neuropsychological Test:

  • Plenty of snacks and lunch
  • Completed paperwork and rating forms
  • Any prior evaluations that were not brought to the intake

After testing is complete, you will return for a one hour feedback session approximately two weeks later, with the clinician to review the testing data, any diagnoses determined based on your child’s profile, recommendations for home and school, and any intervention services to foster your child’s development.

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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Vanessa A. Wells Psy.D.

Vanessa A. Wells Psy.D.

Dr. Vanessa Wells is a Post-Doctoral Neuropsychology. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago in Psychology, and her Master of Arts & Doctor of Psychology degrees in Clinical Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology in Los Angeles, concentrating in neuropsychology. Recently, Vanessa completed her Pre-Doctoral Internship at Palos Behavioral Health Professionals where she provided psychological assessments, as well as individual and group therapy to youth and adults with various diagnoses including Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, anxiety, depression, and conduct disorder. Additionally, she’s been trained in providing CogMed, a computer-based cognitive rehabilitation program, focusing on youth. Prior to internship, her clinical work has focused on neuropsychological assessment with children and adolescents in hospital and private practice settings. She also has experience with various medically related diagnoses including pediatric cancers, sickle cell anemia, failure to thrive, traumatic brain injury, and seizure disorder. Vanessa’s past research experience has included investigating the long-term neurocognitive effects of pediatric oncology treatment. Her doctoral dissertation explored adaptive and socio-emotional functioning in pediatric cancer survivors. Dr. Wells has spent significant time volunteering with various hospitals and organizations including, Shriners Hospital for Children, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.

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Traveling With a Child Who Has Autism

The word “travel” can bring a sense of excitement and joy, because you are going on a vacation or to visit relatives or to explore something new. However, the word “travel” can also bring feelings of anxiety or stress. Blog-Traveling-with-Autism-Main-Landscape

Traveling with a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can seem overwhelming, especially when it comes to flying.

Here are some tips that can help a family prepare for flying with a child on the autism spectrum:

  1. Call the airport prior to your travel date and see if you can schedule a “trial run” to acclimate your child to the surroundings. During one of my therapy sessions I took a child to O’Hare with his parents to prepare for the many transitions involved in navigating an airport. We were able to start from the beginning of pulling up to the parking lot, riding the train and walking up to the security desk. We took pictures of each step so the child had a schedule and felt comfortable the day of the flight. Many large airports have guides to assist families with special needs children through the airport experience. Call to find out how to set up a guide for your family on your travel day.
  2. Provide your child with a schedule of “what’s going to happen, once you are on the airplane.” Make your child aware of what boarding the airplane will look like, what your seat number will be, what waiting for the plane to take off is like, the pre-flight security guidelines, take off and what to do during the plane ride.
  3. Have your child help plan activities during the plane ride. Bring favorite toys and games to help keep your child occupied.
  4. Have your child watch videos and listen to sounds of the airplanes. This is especially important for those kiddos who are sensory avoiding. Prepare your child for all the sensations he or she may experience on the airplane including the noise, ears popping, the vibration of the plane, what the seats will look like, what standing and going to the bathroom may feel like, etc.
  5. Finally, prepare your child for what happens when the plane lands and collecting your luggage.

Talk to your therapists and ask them to participate in the planning process. Talking about the process a few sessions before the travel date can instill confidence and help eliminate fear. Call the airports that you are flying in and out of for any resources and help available for your family.

Lastly, enjoy the vacation!

Check out these valuable resources for popular vacation spots and how they accommodate families:

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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Abby Rohlfing

Abby Rohlfing

Abby Rohlfing is a certified Occupational Therapist. She first received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology also from the University of Indianapolis and then went on to earn a Masters in Occupational Therapy from the University of Indianapolis in December of 2012. During her graduate program, she worked at a cerebral palsy clinic for kids ages 0-15 and babysat for some of the children during the weekends. She completed one of her level II fieldworks at an Autism clinic. There she worked with children and young adults ages 5-22. Also while attending the University of Indianapolis, she completed a research project entitled: Influences on the Transition from Student to Occupational Therapy Practitioner. Currently, Abby is going back to school to receive her doctorate in health sciences. While at NSPT Abby has worked with varying diagnosis’ and kids of all ages. She currently is the Director of Operations and helps to manage the operations of the clinical and admin staff.

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What Exactly is a Social Group for Children with Autism?

We interviewed Latha V. Soorya, PhD from the Rush University Medical Center to learn about the study of social skills groups for children with autism.

Many children with autism are working toward learning, building and strengthening their social skills. The Autism Assessment, Research, Treatment and Services Center (AARTS Center) at Rush University Medical Center has dedicated their mission to on-going research in hopes to find new interventions to help those with autism. Latha V. Soorya, PhD explains and answers some questions regarding their newest study on social skills and the use of Oxytocin. early autism

Oxytocin is a hormone that plays an important role in social bonding and connections. Social skills groups for children with autism are widely used and well-liked. The Autism Assessment, Research, Treatment, and Services Center at Rush is studying both of these treatments to better understand how to improve social connections in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). We are looking for 8-11 year old children with ASD to participate in a unique study called ION: Integrated Oxytocin and NETT (Nonverbal synchrony, Emotion recognition, and Theory of mind Training).

What is the benefit for parents? Families will receive support from therapists and other parents during parent groups that run at the same time as the social skills groups. Qualifying families will receive evaluations and treatment from licensed psychologists, child-psychiatrists, and therapists at no-cost as part of their participation in the social skills research study. The AARTS Center has run the social thinking group in the past, and a parent shared their positive feedback with us, saying, “We liked connecting with other parents during parent group and still use the materials from group to help our son focus on other people’s thoughts and feelings.”

How can parents & clinicians use the results? Before the study is published, families will receive results from their child’s evaluations as well as information about their progress. After publication, the AARTS center will share results with participating families, community partners, and the academic/medical community. Our hope is that the ION study will target social skills development in a new way, and that parents and clinicians will see lasting changes in the way that children with ASD apply these skills across settings.

Has similar research been done in the field? This is a unique study that combines promising research from two fields. Intranasal oxytocin may increase attention to social cues (e.g. where someone is looking) and social skills groups are well-liked and may help improve some aspects of social behavior. However, research also shows that changes from social skills groups, as well as intranasal oxytocin, do not last very long. This study is the first to examine what happens when the two treatments are combined.

What are you most excited about exploring in this study? We are most excited about this study’s potential to develop a more powerful, longer-lasting treatment for critical social thinking skills—skills we know are critical to navigating many life experiences and building social relationships.

Latha V. Soorya, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, board-certified behavior analyst and assistant professor of psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center. Soorya serves as the research director at the AARTS Center at Rush and brings expertise in diagnosis and intervention development to the research program.

For more information on the study, please contact Anthony Burns at 312-942-6331 or email Anthony_burns@rush.edu.

North Shore Pediatric Therapy

North Shore Pediatric Therapy

North Shore Pediatric Therapy is a group of experienced and dedicated Thought Leaders in pediatric therapy. We believe passionately in helping each child blossom to their ultimate potential.

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5 Possible Autism Red Flags for Preschoolers

Autism spectrum disorder is a diagnosis that can affect each child differently, meaning there is not one specific trait that sets people with this diagnosis apart from others. Symptoms can rangeblog-autism-red-flags-main-landscape from mild to severe, but frequently symptoms such as problems with social interactions, difficulties with communication and repetitive/stereotypical behavior are seen with an autism diagnosis. Although symptoms vary from child to child, here is a list of 5 possible red flags of autism for preschoolers. Note: This list is not all-inclusive as symptoms vary between children.

1.) Limited Eye Contact and/or Want to be Alone

During preschool years (3-5 years old), children are exploring their environment and interacting with those around them. These interactions help them develop an understanding of the world, as well as develop important relationships with others. A red flag would be if a child has limited eye contact with peers and/or adults, especially when their name is called or during times of play/activities with others.

If a child tends to play alone, even though there are peers around to engage with, this could also be a red flag. These children could be engaging in a toy or activity with another peer nearby, but do not attempt to interact with the other peer even if the peer attempts to do so. At this age, children should start showing an interest in what their peers are doing and begin to interact with them both during organized (e.g., planned activities) and unstructured activities (e.g., free play).

2.) Delay in Speech and Language Skills and/or Repetitive Speech

Speech and language milestones are reached at different times for each child, but most, at this age, should be using four or more words in a sentence, follow three-step directions (e.g., find your chair, sit down, and wait for your friends), answer more complicated “WH” (e.g. who, what, where, etc.) questions and start to recognize letters and numbers. Red flags would be if they are unable to do the above, if familiar and/or unfamiliar people cannot understand what the child is saying and child does not ask or answer simple questions.

Repetitive speech could be defined as repeating the same words (eg., clap, clap, clap!) or phrases (e.g., How are you? How are you?) over and over which can also be known as echolalia. The repeated words might be said right away or at a later time. Most children do go through this stage, but repeating words or phrases should stop by the time they are 3.

3.) Become Upset with Minor Changes

Although many children can, at times, struggle with changes in routine, children with autism can become extremely upset when changes occur, especially unexpectedly. This may be seen during transition times between activities, clean up time, or when they are asked to do something. Some behaviors that may occur when changes in routine happen include exhibiting withdrawal, repetitive behaviors, tantrums, or even aggression.

4.) Stimming and/or Obsessive Interests

Stimming can be defined as stereotypy or self-stimulatory behavior, which can appear as repetitive body movements and/or repetitive movement of objects. Stimming can involve one or all senses, but some examples could be flapping their hands, rocking their body, spinning in circles or spinning objects. Obsessive interests could be routines or interests that the child develops that may seem unusual or unnecessary. Some example of common obsessive interests could include only wanting to talk about and play with computers, trains, historical dates or events, science, or particular TV shows, etc.

5.) Sensory Sensitivity

Children with autism may have a dysfunctional sensory system in which one or more of their senses are either over or under reactive to sensory stimulation. This sensitivity could be the cause of stimming behaviors exhibited. Some possible red flags that could be seen in preschoolers could be unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look or feel. For example, during sensory play (e.g., sand, play-doh, shaving cream, etc.) a child that does not like to get their hands dirty and would prefer to continually wipe, wash them off or avoid sensory projects all together, could be a possible red flag.

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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Rachel Nitekman

Rachel Nitekman

Rachel is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) with over 10 years of experience working with children with autism, Down syndrome, and other developmental delays. After graduating from the Blitstein Institute in 2011, she went on to receive her Masters in Psychology specializing in ABA, from Kaplan University, while working full time as a pediatric behavior therapist. Rachel has worked with children in a variety of settings, including home, camp and school. She also worked for KESHET, an organization that provides services for children and young adults with varying developmental delays. Rachel is passionate about her work in helping children succeed to their fullest potentials in life.

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A Day in Milwaukee with a Child with Autism

Whether you are running around the city completing errands or want to plan a family outing in the city of Milwaukee, you may be thinking how can I help my child be successful in the Blog-Autism Milwaukee-Main-Landscapecommunity? It can be stressful to take a child with autism out of the home. Nevertheless, there are strategies to help you and your child have a smooth trip.

Each child with autism has their own unique needs, therefore here are some basic guidelines to keep in mind:

Preparing for the outing

  • Pick a place.

In the city of Milwaukee there are several events going on throughout the year and many are affordable or offer discounted prices for families of children with special needs. Maybe it’s a sensory friendly movie, the trampoline park or just your neighborhood park.

  • Inform the child what to expect.

Many children with autism are more successful with transitions when they can predict what’s to come. Now that you’ve decided on a place to go, here are some tips to guide you through the process. Try logging onto the website and printing off pictures. For example, if you are going to the trampoline park, show them the equipment and tell them that other people, including children, will be there. If you are going to the store tell them they need to stay next to the cart, keep their hands to themselves, and be aware of others.

Out in the city

  • Safety first!

Places throughout the city of Milwaukee can get busy. We recognize that safety is critical, especially when out in the city. Community safety requires skills such as awareness of surroundings, crossing the street, staying within proximity of the group and asking permission. Practice these skills ahead of time, and remind them of the rules as necessary.

  • Praise/reward appropriate behavior

Recognize your child’s good behavior! This could be done in several ways. Bring attention to the child’s behavior by commenting on what they’re doing. For example “great job staying next to me in the parking lot.” Try setting up an if/then situation, such as rewarding the child with a favorite item for demonstrating good behavior. Some examples are If you hold my hand while we walk to the park then you can have 15 minutes of TV time before bed.” “If you wait by the cart when we walk through the grocery store, then you can pick out one piece of candy.” This strategy will keep the child motivated to follow directions. Other examples of goals could be accepting no to a desired item or waiting in line for play equipment at the park. The more specific you are when giving your child goals, the more they will understand and be successful. Most importantly, when your child accomplishes these goals be sure to reward them with a highly preferred item!

  • Dealing with challenging behavior

A child with autism may have an alternative way of communicating. Some examples of challenging behaviors include crying instead of telling you why they are sad, screaming instead of explaining what is making them angry, or running away instead of telling you when they don’t like a situation. This can be difficult to handle while in the community. It’s helpful to develop proactive strategies (see above) for these behaviors. We know that all behavior happens for a reason, so being able to identify why a child is displaying a specific behavior will help you determine how to move forward in responding to that behavior.

Take your trip & have fun!

After going through these steps with your child, it’s now time to take your trip! You’ve picked a place, prepared the child for what they will see and do, and you are prepared to handle challenging behavior and/or praise your child for good behavior. Now it’s time to confidently make your trip out into Milwaukee one to remember!

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 (847) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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Allison Kleppe

Allison Kleppe is a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) with experience working with children between the ages of 3-10. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in Community Education with a focus on childhood and adolescent studies as well as therapeutic recreation, and is currently pursuing her Masters degree through Ball State University in Applied Behavior Analysis specializing in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Allison spent five years working with children with special needs providing in-home early intervention therapy. During this experience she treated children with ASD, receptive and expressive language disorders, as well as physical and cognitive impairments. Allison has additional experience working with children in a group intervention setting implementing and teaching school-readiness, and social skills. She has volunteered at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin as an in-patient critical care volunteer, where she assisted children in making their stay comfortable and stress free. She’s also spent some time volunteering for Big Brothers Big Sisters where she mentored school aged children. Allison is a dedicated Behavior Treatment Therapist passionate about improving the lives of children with special needs.

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7 Tips for Working on Social Skills During School

School days can be a perfect opportunity for children to work on social skills. Children are surrounded by their peers throughout the day and there are endless opportunities for interaction.Blog-Social Skills-Tips-Main-Landscape

Here are some opportunities to promote social skills throughout the school day:

  • During circle time, snack time and lunch time, have the child sit next to different peers each day. This will promote multiple opportunities to meet new peers!
  • Assign different “peer buddies” for the child throughout the day and week. These peer buddies can help assist the child complete tasks, play games with the child, engage them in conversation and model appropriate behaviors.
  • Set up small, group structured activities such as completing puzzles, building train tracks, playing a board game or playing catch. It is often easier for children to interact and develop appropriate skills in a small group setting, rather than in a large group.
  • For older kids, during lunch time, give the table a topic of conversation to talk about that day to promote conversational skills.
  • If children need help throughout the day, prompt them to ask their peers for help, rather than always approaching an adult.
  • Set up situations where the child would need to interact with peers. For example, if there is a play dough station, have all the tools with the other peers, so that the child would need to ask their friend for tools in order to complete the activity.
  • Parents can also talk to the teacher about peers who the child gets along with, and set up play dates at home with the peers so they can practice those skills in different places.

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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Rachel Nitekman

Rachel Nitekman

Rachel is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) with over 10 years of experience working with children with autism, Down syndrome, and other developmental delays. After graduating from the Blitstein Institute in 2011, she went on to receive her Masters in Psychology specializing in ABA, from Kaplan University, while working full time as a pediatric behavior therapist. Rachel has worked with children in a variety of settings, including home, camp and school. She also worked for KESHET, an organization that provides services for children and young adults with varying developmental delays. Rachel is passionate about her work in helping children succeed to their fullest potentials in life.

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A Letter I Would Have Written for My Parents When I Was Still Nonverbal

This guest post is from Kerry Magro, a 28-year-old adult with autism who has become a national speaker and best-selling author. Magro is also on the Panel of People on the Spectrum of Autism for the Autism Society.

Dear Mom and Dad,

I know it’s breaking your heart to see me as I am now. Most of the kids we know are starting to talk while I’m just making sounds. I’m lashing out because I’m struggling. I can’t communicate myNonverbal Feature needs, and things are just not going the way I wish they would. I scream and fight with you every time you try and bathe me because I can’t stand the feeling of water. I cringe anytime I hear thunder, and I don’t like to be touched because of my sensory issues. Even now, as we make all the adorable videos of me dressed up as one of the best looking toddlers of all time, I know things aren’t easy, and we don’t know what my future has in store.

I want to tell you, though, to keep fighting for me and believing in me because without you both — my best advocates — I’m not going to be the person I am today. There’s hope, and you both play a huge part in that. Things are going to get better, and without you that wouldn’t be possible.

At 2 and a half, I’m going to say my first words, and at 4 you’re going to find out from a doctor that I have something called autism. In 1992, it will be something you would have only heard from some of the leading experts in the field and from the 1988 movie “Rain Man.” The road now is going to be difficult, but we’re going to get through it together.

Supports are going to be difficult to come by. The numbers of autism are 1 in 1000 right now and so many people still don’t understand. Life is going to be difficult. Challenges are coming. But here’s why you should fight through the challenges…

By fighting for me every day and helping me go through occupational, physical and speech therapy for the next 16 years, while giving me support at home and in school, I’m going to grow into an adult who is a national motivational speaker and gives talks about autism across the country.

Because if you fight for me right now and never give up, not only will I be that speaker but I’ll have the opportunity to write an Amazon Best Seller, consult for a major motion picture that makes 30 million dollars, and be someone who gives you love every single day. I will grow into an adult who embraces affection.

Love,
Kerry

I hope for any parent who reads this letter — coming from a now 28-year-old adult on the autism spectrum — that you never give up on your loved ones. The autism spectrum is wide and everyone’s journey is going to be slightly different. Become an advocate because by doing what you’re doing now, you not only give hope to your loved ones but you give hope to the autism community. We’re learning more and more about autism every day and more and more answers are coming to help our community progress.

Most important, I hope you take this letter as a sign that all parents of children on the autism spectrum can make a difference. Some days are going to be more difficult than others, but just know that you’re never alone in this community. And if you ever need someone to talk to, I’m just one message away if you click on my Facebook page.

A version of this blog originally appeared on Kerrymagro.com.

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North Shore Pediatric Therapy

North Shore Pediatric Therapy

North Shore Pediatric Therapy is a group of experienced and dedicated Thought Leaders in pediatric therapy. We believe passionately in helping each child blossom to their ultimate potential.

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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.

Rachel Nitekman

Rachel Nitekman

Rachel is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) with over 10 years of experience working with children with autism, Down syndrome, and other developmental delays. After graduating from the Blitstein Institute in 2011, she went on to receive her Masters in Psychology specializing in ABA, from Kaplan University, while working full time as a pediatric behavior therapist. Rachel has worked with children in a variety of settings, including home, camp and school. She also worked for KESHET, an organization that provides services for children and young adults with varying developmental delays. Rachel is passionate about her work in helping children succeed to their fullest potentials in life.

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Reasons to Seek a Neuropsychological Evaluation for Your Child

Neuropsychology is a field of psychology that focuses on the relationship between learning, behavior, and brain functioning. A child may be referred for a Blog-Neuropsychological-Evaluation-Main-Landscapeneuropsychological evaluation when there are concerns about one or more areas of their development. This can include a child’s cognitive, academic, memory, language, social, self-regulatory, emotional, behavioral, motor, visual-spatial, and adaptive functioning.

This type of evaluation can help rule out diagnoses such as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Specific Learning Disorder, Language Disorder, as well as various emotional and behavioral disorders. A neuropsychological evaluation can also be helpful if your child has been diagnosed with a medical condition such as Down Syndrome or other genetic disorders, Traumatic Brain Injury, or Epilepsy. The purpose of the evaluation is to identify a child’s patterns of strengths and challenges in order to provide parents, schools, and other providers with strategies to help them succeed across contexts. It can also be used to track a child’s progress and response to targeted interventions.

In order to assess whether a neuropsychological evaluation may be helpful for a child, a family may identify concerns in the following areas:

  • Cognitive
    • Difficulties with verbal and nonverbal reasoning and problem solving
    • Requiring a significant amount of repetition and/or additional time when learning
    • Delays in adaptive functioning
  • Academic
    • Grades below peers
    • Concerns with reading (phonetic development, fluency, comprehension), mathematics (calculation, word problems), or writing (spelling, content, organization)
    • Needing additional time to complete schoolwork, homework, or tests
    • Frustration with academic work
  • Language
    • Expressive (output of language) or receptive (understanding of language) difficulties
    • Challenges initiating or maintaining a conversation
    • Difficulties with sarcasm or non-literal language (e.g, “It’s raining cats and dogs”)
    • Repetitive or odd language usage (e.g., repeating lengthy scripts heard from television or news programs)
    • Pronoun reversals or odd use of language
  • Self-Regulation
    • Difficulty paying attention or sitting still
    • Needing frequent prompts or reminders to complete tasks
    • Difficulty with multiple-step commands
    • Losing or misplacing items
    • Forgetting to turn in completed assignments
  • Social
    • Poor peer relations
    • Inappropriate response when approached by peers
    • Difficulty with imaginative, functional, or reciprocal play
    • Limited interest in peers or preference for solitary play
  • Repetitive Behaviors
    • Repetitive vocalizations
    • Repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand flapping, finger flicking, body rocking)
    • Lining up toys, spinning wheels of cars, sorting objects for prolonged periods of time
  • Behavioral Dysregulation
    • Physical or verbal aggression
    • Defiance or non-compliance
    • Difficulties with transitions or changes in routine
    • Self-injury (e.g., head banging)
  • Emotional
    • Poor frustration tolerance
    • Irritability or easily upset
    • Eating or sleeping difficulties
    • Somatic complaints
    • Negative self-statements
    • Lack of interest in things he/she used to enjoy
  • Visual-Spatial, Visual-Motor, and Motor
    • Poor handwriting
    • Trouble with fine motor tasks (e.g., unwrapping small items, buttoning or zipping clothing, tying shoe laces)
    • Difficulty transferring information from the classroom board to a notepad, or transferring information from a test booklet to a scantron/bubble sheet
    • Difficulty with overwhelming visual displays (e.g., computer screen with several icons; homework with several problems on one sheet; a book with several colors and pictures)

Should a child demonstrate difficulties in some of the areas listed above, he/she may benefit from further consultation or a subsequent neuropsychological evaluation. Through this process, areas of difficulty can be identified, and targeted interventions will be suggested to enhance a child’s development.

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!

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Nina Goudis

Nina Goudis

Dr. Nina Goudis is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist at North Shore Pediatric Therapy (NSPT). Dr. Nina specializes in the evaluation of children with various intellectual and developmental disorders, learning difficulties, and emotional and behavioral challenges. Her specific areas of expertise include Autism Spectrum Disorder, Intellectual Disability, Down Syndrome, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Specific Learning Disorder, as well as various emotional and behavioral disorders. Dr. Nina completed her fellowship in Neuropsychology at NSPT. Prior to this, Dr. Nina completed her Pre-Doctoral Internship in the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Track at Nationwide Children’s Hospital (NCH), an Autism Treatment Network site. At NCH, Dr. Nina provided comprehensive assessment and intervention for youth with varying intellectual and developmental difficulties. She was also part of six clinical specialty rotations, Neurodevelopmental, Down Syndrome/Developmental Disabilities, Feeding, Bowel Management and Rural Outreach Clinics, as well as a rotation through a residential care facility for nonambulatory children and adults with multiple developmental disabilities. Prior to this, Dr. Nina conducted psychological assessments of children in the Attention, Learning, and Behavior Clinic and Developmental Disabilities Clinic at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, Pediatric Developmental Center, where she also provided intensive behavior therapy to youth with a broad range of developmental, learning, and behavioral challenges. She also spent time evaluating children in a therapeutic day school and presented results in district staffings to help determine a child’s eligibility for special education services. Furthermore, she has experience providing individual, family, and group therapy in a community mental health center. Dr. Nina’s past research experiences have included projects involving youth with spina bifida, underserved and urban child populations, and Parent-Child Interactive Therapy. Her doctoral dissertation examined the statistical properties and clinical utility of the Children’s Category Test Level 1; a neuropsychological assessment used to assess brain injury in child populations. Dr. Nina has spent time volunteering in an art program for adults with severe mental illness and developmental disabilities, and has also fundraised for Autism Speaks.

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How Can Virtual Therapy Benefit a Child With Autism Spectrum Disorder?

As with any diagnosis, there are no two cases alike. People can have the same “label” or diagnosis, butHow Virtual Therapy Can Help People With Autism this label can be exhibited in very different ways.  This is also true for the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). An ASD diagnosis has a spectrum of variables and intensity of behaviors. The patterns of behavior that are affected are common for all diagnosed, and these common variables include the following:

Common Variables for All Autism Spectrum Diagnoses:

  • Problems with communication
  • Problems with social interaction
  • Repetitive thoughts, interests and / or physical behaviors

There are many therapies that can help a child and family with ASD.  Speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy are just a few of the common therapies.

Virtual therapy (also known as Tele Therapy) can also help. Through virtual therapy, a child, adolescent, or adult with ASD can learn what is needed to manage a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Social interaction can be improved by specific guidance and strategy.  Helping a person with ASD tell their story through virtual therapy can be empowering and vital to their growth as well and can be administered in the comfort of the patient’s own home.

Virtual therapy is one tool that can help a person with ASD grow and meet his potential.

Find Out More About Tele Therapy

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!

Jonathan Levin

Jonathan Levin, LCSW, is an experienced Licensed Clinical Social Worker providing 1:1 support for middle school and high school teens, as well as college-aged young adults. He also can run group sessions, including with parents. Jonathan’s experience includes working with teens and young adults with social difficulties, emotional challenges, nonverbal learning disabilities, ADHD, depression, anxiety, and autism spectrum disorders. Part of that work is helping parents get the help they need to best support their children at home and at school. Jonathan works with teens, young adults and parents to help empower them with how they can begin to control their lives by making changes, however big or small. It starts with learning about self, and using supports and strengths.

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