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4 Fun Ways to Practice Handwriting

As we all know, practicing handwriting is not a kid’s top pick for a summer activity. Luckily, there are ways to make handwriting fun! Blog-Handwriting-Main-Landscape

Try some of these ideas and see if you can’t trick your kid into becoming a handwriting master:

Use Different Mediums

  • Try practicing writing numbers and letters in shaving cream on a tabletop or tray. Kids love the feel and it adds a whole other element to learning the formation!
  • Other ideas include drawing in sand or dry rice in a cookie tray.
  • You can also make a mess-free activity with colored gel in a plastic zipped bag; you can use your finger to write and draw on the outside of the bag!

Play a Game

  • There are plenty of games out there that you can use to practice handwriting. Try playing Boggle and have your child find a word and then write a sentence with that word in it.
  • Playing Guess Who can become a sneaky secret game, where questions can only be written and transferred across the table to the other player who then writes the answer (Yes/No) and returns it.
  • Hangman is a classic game that already incorporates writing! That is a fun one that can also be played in shaving cream. Other games you can incorporate writing into include Scrabble and HeadBandz.

Try Different Writing Utensils

  • Sometimes kids are just sick of using paper and pencil all day. Adding in the novelty of using a dry erase marker or chalk on a small board can totally change their attitude!
  • Practicing writing on an iPad can also be fun, ideally using a stylus.

Be Creative

  • Try writing a creative story together; take turns writing sentences, trying to create a story. It will likely turn out to be silly! They can even illustrate a picture to go with it.
  • Another idea is to write a letter to their favorite author/singer/actor. There are also lots of websites with creative writing topics that might motivate your child to write.

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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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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What You Need to Know About Sensory Diets

  1. While it is called a “diet,” it’s not a FOOD diet, but it should be considered nutritional intake that your child’s body/brain need daily. Blog-Sensory-Diets-Main-Landscape
  2. Consistency is key and it is important to find a schedule that works for you. Work with your occupational therapist and teacher to develop a timeframe that works best. Do not overdo it if it does not seem sustainable.
  3. As much as possible, sensory diet activities should be completed around the same time each day.
  4. Many sensory diet activities can be adapted to be used across many environments in order to promote consistency i.e. at home, in school, while traveling.
  5. When appropriate, get other siblings and family members involved!
  6. Watch your child’s responses before, during, and after sensory diet activities and be sure to address any abnormal changes you see with your occupational therapist.
  7. The best sensory diet combines tactile, proprioceptive, and vestibular based activities.
  8. Just as no two children with sensory processing difficulties will present the same, no two sensory diets will be identical.
  9. As your child’s brain continues to develop, the sensory diet will likely eventually need to be updated in either types of activities or frequency.

Examples of sensory diet activities for each sensory system:

  • Proprioceptive: jumping and crashing on pillows, heavy work activities such as pushing a heavy laundry basket or helping carry grocery bags to put away, wheelbarrow walk or animal walks (bear crawl, crab walk), joint compressions.
  • Vestibular: log rolls, cartwheels, swinging, head inversions over the edge of a couch, yoga poses, rocking chair.
  • Tactile: messy play (shaving cream, water, finger painting), sensory bins (uncooked rice or pasta noodles, kinetic sand), exposure to novel materials (i.e. corduroy, velvet, sandpaper, sand, silk).
  • Auditory: participation in Therapeutic Listening program under the guidance of your occupational therapist, listening to calming music, listening to white noise, play exploration with various instruments or toys/books that make sounds.
  • Oral: blowing bubbles, use of straws, use of chewy tubes or “jewelry”, food texture exploration (i.e. creamy, dry, wet, lumpy), having a chewy or crunchy snack to provide “heavy work” to the mouth”.
  • Visual: activities such as “i-spy”, spot the difference picture games, and word searches, de-clutter the home environment, oculomotor exercises, dim lights and avoid fluorescent bulbs.

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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Sensory Activities for Rainy Days

Every child needs sensory input to stay focused, regulated, and organized throughout the day, especially children who have sensory processing challenges. Every child has different sensory needs that need to be met each day and acquiring that input can be difficult when the weather turns rainy. Blog-Rainy Sensory Activities-Main-Landscape-01

Below are some fun and easy to do sensory activities that can be done with the whole family to ensure that your child is getting the sensory input they need:

  • Tactile/messy play is a great indoor activity for the child with tactile processing challenges:
    • Play doh/theraputty
    • Finger painting
    • Shaving cream
    • Create sensory bins of rice, beans, sand, noodles, etc.
    • Cooking/baking (allow the child to mix with their hands to explore new textures)
  • Heavy work activities and activities that provide vestibular input can be great to help regulate a sensory seeking child:
    • Obstacle courses
    • Blowing bubbles
    • Somersaults
    • Animal walk races
    • Using a rolling pin and cookie cutters while baking
  • For the anxious child or a child that has self-regulation difficulties:
    • Building forts
    • Listening to calming music
  • To increase attention, alertness, and address impulsivity challenges:
    • Freeze dance
    • Red light/green light
    • Simon Says

Be creative and have fun using these activities to brighten up a gloomy, cold day!

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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Gravitational Insecurity and Recess

Gravitational insecurity is a term that means an excessive fear of ordinary movement. Blog-Gravitational Insecurity-Main-LandscapeIt can also be characterized by a child being uncomfortable in any position other than upright, or fear of having one’s feet off the ground. Gravitational insecurity is a form of over-responsiveness to vestibular input. This input is detected by the Otolith organs, located in the inner ear. These organs detect movement through space as well as the pull of gravity.

Recess is a common time you may notice children having difficulties with gravitational insecurities.

Here are some common red flags that may indicate your kiddo is having difficulty with gravitational insecurity:

  • Avoidance of playground equipment that kids of similar age enjoy
  • Avoidance of swings
  • Fear of heights or uneven surfaces
  • Overwhelmed by changes in head position
  • Fear of having their feet off the ground
  • Overly hesitant on slides
  • Has difficulty tilting their head back to look up at monkey bars

If you notice your child exhibiting some of the red flags listed above, they would likely benefit from an occupational therapy evaluation and treatment focusing on sensory integration. Throughout therapy your child will receive graded vestibular information through a multisensory approach. Slowly, they will learn to integrate and process sensory information more effectively.

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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Explaining Your Child’s Behaviors in Response to Sensory Input

The way children take in and respond to sensory input from the environment may vary from child-to-child and day-to-day. It’s important to take into consideration that how children’s senses pick up information from the environment may influence their reactions and behaviors. Children might have a harder time taking in and processing sensory input to respond appropriately within the environment. Blog-Sensory Input-Main-Landscape

Below are several ways you can explain these sensory input reactions and behaviors to family, friends, and community members:

Auditory Input: Some children are sensitive to sounds (e.g. hand dryers; toilet flush; alarms). You might see these children cover their ears to certain sounds. Other children may not be as aware to sounds. You might see these children not respond to their name being called.

Visual Input: There are children who may demonstrate sensitivity to light by covering their eyes from bright sunlight or they may express discomfort by florescent lights. Other children might seek visual input by being visually attracted to TV/computer screens with fast-paced and/or flashy visual effects.

Tactile Input: Children may demonstrate sensitivity to certain textured clothing and resist/avoid wearing them (e.g. jeans; cotton materials; tags on clothing; tight socks). There are children who have a difficult time being in close proximity to other people. These children may feel overwhelmed and demonstrate over reactive behaviors when touched/bumped into (e.g. in crowded places; in line).

Oral Input: Some children might present sensitivity to specific textures or taste of food and avoid eating them (e.g. mushy/crunchy/chewy foods; sweet/sour foods; foods mixed together). Others might seek oral input to the mouth and put everything in their mouth (e.g. toys; finger; clothing).

Vestibular/Proprioceptive Input: Children might be hesitant and present distress when their feet are not on the ground or when they are spun in a circle. These children might avoid swings, climbing on the playground, riding a bike, or car rides. There are children who seek out a lot of movement and take climbing/jumping risks. You might also see children spin in circles to obtain additional vestibular input.

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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Occupational Therapy’s Role in Improving Self-Care Performance in Children

The role of the occupational therapist, when working with clients of any age, is to support participation and daily functioning. For a child, one of the primary occupations is self-care. Self-care Blog-Self-Care-Skills-Main-Landscapeskills, which include feeding, toileting, dressing, bathing and grooming, are classified as Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s), because they are a critical part of a child’s overall health and participation each and every day. In order to participate in self-care, a child must have component skills within a variety of performance areas, and delays in any of these areas can make seemingly simple tasks feel nearly impossible.

During an initial evaluation, an occupational therapist will help you determine which performance deficits or barriers within the child’s environment are causing your child to struggle with self-care. The OT will first obtain information by asking you questions about your home setup, your family’s routines, what kind of assistance your child currently needs to perform age-appropriate self-care skills, and what your goals are in terms of self-care independence.

These questions will help the therapist obtain a snapshot of your child’s current self-care performance and provide more information about the home environment in which your child is performing. The therapist will also complete a comprehensive evaluation of your child’s underlying skills through clinical observation and standardized testing to determine potential causes of delayed self-care skills.

Below are a variety of performance areas an occupational therapist will assess that could contribute to self-care performance:

  • Motor performance: A child’s physical ability to perform the motor tasks required for a self-care skill is dependent on his or her strength and endurance, range of motion, body awareness, grasp, manual dexterity, and bilateral coordination. In addition, a child may have decreased motor planning, or difficulty generating an idea for and executing a specific movement pattern.
    • Example: A child may be unable to tie his shoes because he cannot maintain a pincer grasp on the shoelaces.
  • Executive Functioning and Attention: A child may have difficulty sustaining attention to a self-care task, sequencing the steps of a task in an efficient order, or remembering when and how to do the task at all.
    • Example: A child may not be able to remember or mix up the order of steps to tying shoes.
  • Sensory Modulation: A child may have decreased sensory modulation, or ability to filter out irrelevant sensory stimuli. Children with poor sensory modulation may be hypersensitive to input, which can often make children very uncomfortable in their own skin, easily distractible, or easily upset and overwhelmed. Other children may be hyposensitive and not notice certain important sensory input. You can read more about how sensory processing impacts self-care and hygiene in one of our other blogs, “Horrible Haircuts and Terrible Toothpaste” http://nspt4kids.com/occupational-therapy/horrible-haircuts-and-terrible-toothpaste-helping-your-child-with-sensory-processing-disorder-tolerate-hygiene/
    • Example: A hypersensitive child may be bothered by the feeling of their socks and refuse to wear tie shoes; a hyposensitive child may not notice that his shoes feel or look funny when on the wrong feet.

Once the evaluation is complete, the occupational therapist will be able to determine if the child would benefit from ongoing occupational therapy. Future treatment would focus not only practicing specific self-care skills, but also engaging in activities that facilitate the overall development of underlying motor, sensory integration, and executive functioning abilities. In addition, the therapist will work with you to adapt your child’s environment through the use of home modifications, visual supports, and adaptive equipment to support performance. Through all of these modalities, the occupational therapist will be able to increase your child’s participation in self-care activities, thereby increasing his or her independence and overall development.

Check out one of our previous blogs on self-care written by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst: Self-Care Skills for Children with Autism

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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10 Common Household Items to Develop Fine Motor Skills

The building blocks for fine motor success begins on day one. Skill development is commonly observed when the child becomes explorative in their environment and increasingly independent. Independence in age appropriate tasks is often a great measure of where they are developmentally. Specifically, the common influencing skills for fine motor development are strength, coordination, visual perception and motor planning. To assist in maturation of these skill areas you can engage your child in simple activities with things you may already have around the house! Blog-Home Fine Motor Skills-Main-Landscape

10 great tools you may find around the house to develop fine motor skills:

  • Broken crayons– Don’t get rid of those broke crayons! Coloring with these can assist with precision, hand strength and grasp maturity.
  • Q-tips– They can be utilized for painting, dotting and erasing from a chalk or white board. Fine motor precision and grasp maturity are challenged in activities with Q-tips.
  • Clothes pins– Transferring small items while playing different games such as matching, minute to win it, and relay races. Clothes pins also assist with motor planning, strength, and coordination.
  • Tweezers– This is another great tool for transferring small items while playing different games that addresses motor planning, strength, and coordination skills.
  • Child safe scissors– Begin with snipping construction paper and progress into more complex activities such as cutting shapes. To start, make a fun fringed edge for a picture they drew or advanced beginners can make a snowflake with parental assistance. Cutting activities can be difficult, but it significantly addresses coordination, strength, visual motor, and motor planning skills.
  • Legos– These small pieces may hurt when stepped on, but they are great for coordination, precision, visual attention, and strength.
  • Small blocks– Blocks can be used in many ways. A few suggestions would be to stack, string, and build various structures. Blocks are wonderful tools for coordination, visual perception, and grasp maturity.
  • Play Doh– Great way to mature manipulation, coordination, strength, and creativity skills.
  • Shaving cream– A fun way to practice their drawing skills in a non-traditional pencil and paper way. This can assist with precision and motor maturity as well.
  • Spray bottle– Clean up from the shaving cream and painting activities with a spray bottle filled with water. This can really test as well as develop the child’s grasp strength and endurance.

**All activities should be closely supervised and supported by an adult.

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

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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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