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How to Bring Yoga Home

This guest blog was written by Erin Haddock.

Yoga was designed to keep the mind focused and relaxed. Of course, relaxing the body is much easier than relaxing the mind directly.  So we work on relaxing the body with yoga poses first, beforeBlog-Yoga-Main-Landscape relaxing through more subtle exercises. When you imagine an advanced yoga practitioner, you might have visions of someone doing a headstand or twisting into a pretzel. In fact, advancement in yoga has nothing to do with the body’s ability to move into poses. Advancement in yoga comes from the ability to maintain the mind’s focus on the present moment, which takes consistency, concentration, and patience. This applies to kids as well. I have seen kids so focused while practicing a simple pose, they are easily more advanced than adults who look around at their neighbors in class.

For this reason, practicing “off the mat” and “on the mat” go hand-in-hand and advance a yogi’s total development. We get precious few hours per week at our favorite yoga classes or in our home practice, but there are many hours each day when we face daily stressors. Creating a consistent “Relax Routine” at home can both deepen your family’s yoga practice on the mat, as well as reinforce yogic principles off the mat. The most useful tip I can give families working to reduce stress, is for the parents to practice too. Kids should get the message that yoga is something even adults enjoy and value as a tool to calm down when stressed.

Here are 3 easy yoga activities parents can incorporate in a family “Relax Routine.” All will promote a sense of well-being while practicing, lead to lowered stress levels after practicing, and will develop self-soothing tools that children can apply on their own.

  1. Mantra Repetition – This mindfulness exercise develops focus and calms the mind.  In our classes we use simple Sanskrit mantras, which mean peace, love and light. You can choose to repeat a Sanskrit mantra, the sound “om”, a relaxing word or phrase (i.e. “love”, “calm”, “home”, “I am peaceful”, etc.), or sing a relaxing song. Repeat the mantra for one or two minutes – or even longer, if you like. Your kids can join in or you can chant to them. Most kids love this practice, since it is similar to singing. This is an important part of yoga, as it is very effective at relaxing the mind. Chanting causes us to take slower, deeper breaths, which triggers the relaxation response. When the breath is relaxed, so is the mind. Kids can be encouraged to mentally repeat their mantra when under stress at home or in school.
  2. Breathing Exercise – Studies have found that regular practice of yogic breathing exercises improves efficiency and balance within the heart and lung system. These exercises teach practitioners what is commonly called “abdominal breathing”. Abdominal breathing has numerous benefits, including inducing the relaxation response, which calms, focuses and quiets the mind. Although we are born breathing like this, sometimes it can feel quite unnatural when first practicing these exercises. Many people are reverse-breathers – meaning their belly moves forward when they exhale, and backward when they inhale – which may cause them to experience more stress. To teach this technique, have your kids lie on their back and place a light weight on their belly (like a book, small bag of rice, etc.). Practice with them, as you breathe in through the nose slowly and deeply, allowing the belly to rise. Then, let the belly gently fall as you slowly breathe out through the nose. Practice for one or two minutes, depending on the age and attention span of your child. After practicing, remove the weight and notice how your breathing has changed. As you start to feel comfortable, you can practice this exercise without a weight. Just bring your attention to the belly as you practice abdominal breathing.
  3. Deep Relaxation – The culminating exercise in a yoga class is deep relaxation, or Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra has been found to produce effects similar to REM sleep, which promotes healing and deep rest.  Yogis say a final relaxation is a must, because it assimilates the benefits of the yoga practices within the body. You can find guided relaxations all over YouTube (we even have a few on our blog), but you can lead a guided relaxation yourself. Yoga Nidra can also be practiced separate from yoga, such as before bed or when your child is feeling stressed. Have everyone lie down and close their eyes. You may use blankets to keep warm or something like a scarf to cover your eyes, if desired. Tell everyone to stretch their toes wider and wider. Then tell them to slowly relax their toes. Instruct them to imagine the relaxation making its way up their body, part by part. You can mention a few key body parts they can relax (i.e. relax your legs, your belly, your eyes). A foot massage is a nice treat to add in while practicing this progressive relaxation. Finally, remain as silent and still as possible, relaxing for a few moments or up to five minutes. After this silence, ask your child to take a deep breath and stretch a little. Slowly make your way back to sitting and end with a final short message, like a mantra, poem, prayer, or simply say “thanks for relaxing with me.”

Developing a Relax Routine as a family can be incredibly rewarding for both kids and parents. Children appreciate the ability to see their parents relaxed and having fun, and parents are amazed at their kids’ focus and engagement.  Not to mention, it can be a powerful bonding experience. Aim to practice your “Relax Routine” at least twice a week. If you can practice once a day, even better!  It doesn’t have to take long. In fact, it is much better to be consistent about a short routine, than practice a long routine only once in awhile. Most importantly, make it work for your family. Yoga is supposed to feel good!

Erin Shanthi Haddock2Erin is E-RYT 200, RYT 500, RCYT with Yoga Alliance.  She completed her 200 hour teacher training with the creator of the Yoga for the Special Child® (YSC) method, Sonia Sumar and has taught the YSC method since 2010.  She is a certified Stress Management Specialist, and also holds certifications in Adaptive Yoga, the YSC method, and Yoga for Teens.

Erin is passionate about bringing yoga to people who experience barriers to their practice – including physical, intellectual, emotional, financial or geographical.  She pursues continuing education in Yoga Therapy at the Integral Yoga Institute in Buckingham, VA and is a member of the International Association of Yoga Therapists and Integral Yoga Teachers Association.

At Five Keys Yoga, we provide yoga classes and mindfulness resources just for kids! We are also the Chicago home of the Yoga for the Special Child® method, specializing in teaching yoga to kids with special needs. If you would like to learn more about the YSC method or how your child can deepen their yoga practice, please visit our website.

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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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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Everything Tummy Time

Parents of infants all know that they should be working on tummy time every day from an early age. However, most parents also experience difficulty consistently working on tummy time, since babies are often initially resistant to this position.Blog-Tummy Time-Main-Landscape

Below is a list of reasons why tummy time is so important, even if your child does not initially enjoy the position:

  1. Strength: When a baby is placed on her stomach, she actively works against gravity to lift her head, arms, legs and trunk up from the ground. Activating the muscle groups that control these motions and control the motor skills that your child will learn in tummy time allows for important strengthening of these muscle groups that your baby won’t be able to achieve lying on her back.
  1. Sensory development: Your child will experience different sensory input through the hands, stomach, and face when she is lying on her stomach, which is an integral part of her sensory development. When your baby is on her stomach her head is a different position than she experiences when on her back or sitting up, which helps further develop her vestibular system.
  1. Motor skill acquisition: There are a lot of motor skills that your child will learn by spending time on her stomach. Rolling, pivoting, belly crawling, and creeping (crawling on hands and knees) are just a few of many important motor skills that your child will only learn by spending time on her stomach. Along with being able to explore her environment by learning these new skills, your baby will also create important pathways in the brain to develop her motor planning and coordination that impact development of later motor skills, such as standing and walking.
  1. Head shape: Infants who spend a lot of time on their backs are at risk for developing areas of flattening along the back of the skull. It is recommended that babies sleep on their backs to decrease the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, and since babies spend a lot of time sleeping, they are also already spending a lot of time lying flat on the back. Spending time on the tummy when awake therefore allows for more time with pressure removed from the back of the head, and also helps to develop the neck muscles to be able to independently re-position the head more frequently while lying on the back.

It is important to remember that your child should only spend time on his or her stomach when awake and supervised. Many infants are initially resistant to tummy time because it is a new and challenging position at first. However, by starting with just a few minutes per day at a young age and gradually increasing your child’s amount of tummy time, your child’s tolerance for the position will also improve.

For more tips on how to improve your child’s tummy time, watch our video!

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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Colleen McCloskey

Colleen McCloskey

Colleen McCloskey is a graduate of Marquette University with her Doctorate in Physical Therapy. While in Milwaukee she spent a few years serving as both as a volunteer and as a student PT serving children from all over the Milwaukee area with a wide variety of physical therapy needs. Before beginning the physical therapy phase of her education, she completed her undergraduate degree at Marquette University in Athletic Training. Through the athletic training program, she participated in numerous internships with Marquette’s varsity sports teams, as well as with a local high school. During her physical therapy education at Marquette, Colleen took part in the Advanced Pediatrics elective, which provided her with opportunities to observe and work with pediatric patients at a number of local inpatient and outpatient pediatric physical therapy clinics. She also completed a research project on the effects of music in pediatric physical therapy, and was given the opportunity to present her findings to a group of physical therapists that work in the Milwaukee public schools. Colleen is passionate about working with children and their families to help them overcome any physical challenges that prevent them from doing the things they love. Outside of work, Colleen loves spending time hiking, running, skiing, snowshoeing or biking with her husband and dog.

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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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Shelly Sears

Shelly Sears

Graduated from Western Michigan University with both her undergraduate and graduate degrees. Shelly has a master’s of science in occupational therapy with a concentration in pediatrics. While in school Shelly had an opportunity to work closely with children who have a variety of functional challenges particularly those with autism, trauma backgrounds, and diverse physical limitations. She also had the opportunity to work as a pediatric home therapist and clinical instructor at a sensory motor facility for several years while in school. Shelly begun working at North Shore Pediatric Therapy at the Glenview location in 2014. More recently she has been certified in Therapeutic Listening through Vital Links to further assist children’s sensory development. As a clinician, Shelly is dedicated to individualize treatment with a concentration on parent education for a holistic experience and optimal care.

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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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Shannon Phelan

Shannon Phelan

Shannon Phelan graduated with a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. As a student, Shannon completed an independent thesis project on attentional abilities in adults and children using measures of behavior and brain activity. She has research experience as a lab assistant in the Brain Waves Research Lab administering and reading results of electroencephalograms (EEG). Her practical experience includes spent time in a variety of settings including schools and inpatient, acute, and psychiatric hospital units prior to establishing her niche in the outpatient pediatric setting. Shannon has received training in Sensory Integration and Kinesio taping. Her favorite part about working at North Shore Pediatric Therapy is working closely with talented professionals of other disciplines who understand that quality care requires a holistic approach and open communication between families and team members. She believes in implementing evidence-based practice to address the unique needs of each child. Shannon is excited to help provide children and their families with the tools they need to lead full and satisfying lives.

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Help! My Child is Wetting the Bed

Wetting the bed is a very common issue that occurs with many children. Below are some preventative and reactive strategies to help decrease bed wetting from occurring. Blog-Wetting the Bed-Main-Portrait

Preventative Strategies for Wetting the Bed

Liquid Intake

It is important for children to drink liquid throughout the day to stay hydrated, but it is best to stop drinking liquids before bed time. This may prevent the bladder from having to be emptied while the child is asleep.

Bathroom Schedule

Scheduled bathroom breaks help empty the bladder when it may need to be emptied. Many times when children are engaged in a preferred activity they choose to not use the bathroom when it is needed. Bathroom breaks/schedules throughout the day can prevent other issues like infection or wetting pants during other parts of the day. Using the bathroom multiple times or at least one time right before bed may help the child from needing to empty the bladder while he or she is sleeping. Parents can also wake their children up when they are getting ready for bed and have them use the restroom one more time.

Reactive Strategies for Wetting the Bed

Waterproof bedding

When a child does wet the bed, use waterproof bedding, blankets, and padding to prevent any damage to mattress. Clean up will also be easier.

Alarms

Sometimes children are in such a deep sleep that the signal of wetting the bed does not wake them up. There are alarms that can be bought to help signal/wake the child when he or she needs to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Open Communication

It is important to not embarrass your children or make them feel bad when they wet the bed. This can be a sensitive topic and it is important for open communication and to make you child feel comfortable when it happens.

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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Kristin Francesco

Kristin Francesco

Kristin Francesco is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst who has always had a passion for working with children. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Special Education at Loyola University in Chicago and her Masters of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Kristin has volunteered as a Best Buddy at Misericordia. She has worked at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels in Chicago, IL. Kristin has provided ABA therapy in homes and at a Therapeutic Day School.

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How Do Weighted Blankets Work?

Does your child have trouble sitting still for long periods? Is it hard for your child to pay attention in class or at home? Does he or she engage in frequent crashing, falling, or jumping? What aboutBlog Weighted Blankets Main-Landscape playing too rough with peers or siblings? Does he or she have a hard time settling down for bedtime and falling asleep? Does he or she exhibit anxiety in non-preferred or unfamiliar situations? If you answered yes to any of these questions, your child may benefit from the use of a weighted blanket.

Weighted blankets are designed to provide deep pressure input to a child’s muscles and joints. This deep pressure input targets our proprioceptive system. The proprioceptive system is our body’s sense of our position in space (in other words, where we are in relation to other people and objects).

A child who has difficulty regulating their arousal level and their movements is likely looking for a way to stabilize their nervous system. By providing the body with this deep, proprioceptive input, we calm and organize the nervous system. This allows for improved attention, a regulated arousal level, a decrease in excessive movement, and improved body awareness.

When beginning to use  weighted blankets, use a wearing schedule for the most effectiveness. If a child has the blanket on all day, his or her body will adjust to this weight and the proprioceptive system will become less activated. Instead, wear the blanket during times that the child typically has difficulty focusing, sitting still, or calming. Wear the blanket for no more than one hour at a time, with at least an hour off before wearing the blanket again. The weighted blanket could be worn in the morning before school, after recess, during specials, during reading or written work, before bedtime, or even during an activity that the child perceives as stressful (dentist appointment, shopping, etc.).

Weighted blankets should not exceed more than 5-10% of a child’s body weight. Consult with an occupational therapist for assistance with wear schedule and the amount of weight to use.

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.

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Amanda Burkert

Amanda Burkert

Amanda Burkert is a licensed occupational therapist who is certified through the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy. She earned both her Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology and her Master of Science degree in Occupational Therapy from Indiana University. Amanda has experience providing both pediatric outpatient and early intervention services through Unlimited Mobility Therapy, Inc. There she treated children from 0-18 years old who presented with fine and visual motor delays, developmental delays, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, arthrogryposis, and Sensory Processing Disorders. Amanda has always had a passion for the pediatric population, and became interested in occupational therapy upon her involvement in Indiana University Dance Marathon, a philanthropic organization benefiting Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, IN. Since that time, her love for both children and the profession of occupational therapy has continued to grow.

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10 Red Flags for Poor Sensory Registration

When most people hear Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), they tend to think of the child who cannot tolerate tags on clothes, covers their ears and screams at parades, and who pulls away from hugs at family parties. While these are all behaviors associated with SPD, they only align with one type. Blog-Sensory Registration-Main-Landscape

Hypersensitivity, or sensory defensiveness, occurs when a child has difficulty filtering unnecessary sensory input and therefore gets bombarded with a waterfall of input, overflowing his or her regulatory system. However, there is another side to the story that often surprises parents that I work with. Just like a child may be over-sensitive, they may also be under. Poor sensory registration, or hypo-sensitivity, is another common classification of sensory processing disorder and applies to children who do not absorb, or register, all of the input entering their body. They are therefore “missing out” on crucial information from their own body and the environment, which is used to make adaptive responses and learn.

Imagine a giant waterfall, filling a pool at the bottom to the “just right” level. Now imagine that waterfall has a giant strainer at the bottom, causing a tiny fraction of the water to pass through and barely filling the pool. While typically processing children naturally and efficiently take in information from the environment through their many sensory receptors and use this information to make adaptive responses, this is much more difficult for children who miss some of the information coming in. Using the waterfall metaphor again, think how much more water you would need to send through the strainer to fill up the pool. This explains why poor sensory registration is often (but not always!) associated with “sensory seeking” behaviors, as children attempt to obtain additional input so that they may better absorb it. These seeking behaviors can often be misperceived as having difficulty following directions or misbehaving, while children may actually be trying to “fill their pool.” Another possible presentation is that children might appear to “be in la la land” and are likely not noticing or absorbing the cues they need to respond appropriately.

While it is very important to identify poor sensory registration, it can be difficult to identify at times.

Below you will find 10 red flags for poor sensory registration, organized by sensory system, to help you identify potential sensory processing deficits in your child:

Touch (Tactile) Processing:

  1. Your child does not notice when his or her face has food, toothpaste, or other materials on it. He or she may not be registering that input and will not notice unless pointed out by someone else or by looking in a mirror.

Auditory Processing:

  1. Your child does not respond quickly when you call his or her name or needs to hear directions several times to respond. If a child does not have actual hearing impairment, being less responsive to auditory input can be a sign of poor registration of sound input.

Visual Processing:

  1. Your child has a particular difficulty finding objects in a drawer, toy box, or other storage space, even when the object is very visible. They may have visual perceptual deficits related to poor registration of visual information.
  2. Your child may perform writing, coloring, or other visual motor tasks in a way that appears careless and not notice their errors unless specifically pointed out. They may be having difficulty noticing the difference between good work and poor work.

Body Awareness (Proprioceptive Processing):

  1. Your child may have difficulty navigating through hallways without leaning against or rubbing their hands against the walls. This may be their way of compensating for decreased body awareness to help them understand where their body is in space.
  2. Your child may have difficulty maintaining upright posture, whether slouching in a chair, w-sitting on the floor, or leaning against a wall when standing.
  3. Your child may use excessive force when giving hugs or using objects (e.g. breaks crayons, throws balls too hard).
  4. Your child may prefer sleeping with very heavy blankets or prefer to keep their coat on indoors. This input gives them the weight he or she needs to better perceive where his or her body is.

Movement/Gravitational (Vestibular) Processing:

  1. Your child loves intense movement (i.e. spinning, rolling, or going upside down) and can do so for a significant period of time without getting dizzy or nauseous.
  2. Your child may appear clumsy when moving about and lose his or her balance unexpectedly.

Of course, as with any set of red flags, one or two red flags does not qualify for a sensory processing disorder. However, if quite a few of the sensory registration items above resonate with you, and if any of these items significantly interfere with your child’s daily functioning, it would be helpful to set up an evaluation with an occupational therapist.

Occupational therapists are specially trained to identify sensory processing disorder through parent interviewing and clinical observation of your child. If a disorder is identified, an occupational therapist can work with you to create a sensory diet, or prescribed set of sensory activities, to help your child get the input he or she needs to feel organized and calm to better learn and grow. They may also teach you strategies to help your child better attend to the input that is entering their body.

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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Amanda Langer

Amanda Langer

Amanda Averack Langer, MS, OTR/L, is also a licensed occupational therapist. Originally from Connecticut, Amanda attended college at the University of Rochester, where she pursued a double major in Brain and Cognitive Science and Music. Prior to obtaining her license in occupational therapy, Amanda gained experience in special education as a 4th grade resource teacher. She also has experience in inclusive and adaptive arts programming for children and adolescents with special needs. Amanda attended the University of Illinois-Chicago, where she received her master's degree in Occupational Therapy. Amanda has clinical experience at OTA-The Koomar Center, a world-renowned pediatric clinic engaged in research and treatment of Sensory Processing Disorders, as well as the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago working adults undergoing physical and neurological rehabilitation. When she is not working with NSPT, Amanda loves to cook, attend concerts and plays, enjoy the outdoors, and sing with her a cappella group, the Southport Singers.

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Why is Toe Walking Bad?

Idiopathic toe walking is a type of walking pattern that occurs when children walk on their tip-toes instead of using the more “typical” heel first pattern. Idiopathic is a term that refers to the fact that this toe walking occurs spontaneously, usually out of habit, and is not due to another medical cause. blog-toe-walking-main-landscape

A non-idiopathic cause may be cerebral palsy, autism, sensory processing disorder, muscular dystrophy or brain injury. As children learn to walk, some toe walking is to be expected. When this becomes a strong habit that they do not grow out of, or the predominant pattern as they are new walkers, then several issues can arise.

The following are negative consequences of toe walking:

  • Tight ankles or contractures can develop
  • Poor balance reactions, frequent falling
  • Muscle imbalances “up the chain” meaning decreased hip or core strength due to the different postural alignment
  • Difficulty with body mechanics including squatting or performing stairs, secondary to tight calve muscles
  • Inability to stand with heels flat on the ground
  • Pain in ankles, knees or hips due to faulty mechanics
  • Surgery, casting, night splinting or daily bracing may be necessary

While some toe walking should not be alarming, the earlier you intervene, the better. Discuss this with your pediatrician or see a physical therapist who can provide early strategies to stop the cascade of effects that can be seen later.

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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Lauren Beeker

Lauren Beeker

Lauren Beeker is a Physical Therapist who loves working with children of all abilities and their families! She earned her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science and Minor in Education at Saint Louis University, where she also earned her Doctorate of Physical Therapy. Following six wonderful years in St. Louis Lauren relocated to Seattle where she spent over 2 years gaining wonderful pediatric experience in an outpatient pediatric clinic setting and participating in a research project at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Lauren has returned to the Midwest to be closer to family in Indianapolis and found North Shore Pediatric Therapy! Lauren has experience working with children with a variety of abilities and ages including but not limited to children with the following: torticollis and/or plagiocephaly, developmental delay, cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, genetic disorders, autism spectrum disorder, sensory processing disorder, orthopedic conditions/pain, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, post-inpatient rehabilitation for cancer treatment, burns, and traumatic brain injury.

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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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Dana Pais

Dana Pais

Dana Pais, OTD, OTR/L is an occupational therapist who obtained her Masters of Occupational Therapy (MS) and Doctorate of Occupational Therapy (OTD) at the University of Illinois at Chicago. During her doctoral studies, she spent time working in Lima, Peru at the Centro Ann Sullivan del Peru (CASP), a center for families and their children with cognitive and physical disabilities, where she provided intervention for many children and their families in the areas of low vision accessibility, independent living, school inclusion and supportive employment. Her interests include sensory processing and its impact on daily life and managing visual deficits. She is passionate about helping children reach their full potential in every aspect of their lives.

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Managing Anxiety in the Classroom

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues in our country, affecting millions of adults and children alike. Children with anxiety at school may be experiencing it for several different blog-anxiety-in-school-main-landscapereasons. A few common reasons children may be anxious at school revolve around separation from parents or caregivers, social anxiety or test anxiety. Sometimes, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the cause is, which is okay too. The important thing is that the symptoms are managed appropriately. Since kids spend the majority of their day in a classroom, it is paramount that teachers and other staff are trained to recognize, support and advocate for anxious students.

Identifying anxiety early on is a very important step as it can help mitigate larger problems later on in adolescence and adulthood.

Let’s start by discussing some common signs and symptoms that we may see in an anxious child. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Refusal or reluctance to attend school
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Negative self-statements
  • Perfectionist tendencies
  • Withdrawing from other children
  • Lack of participation
  • Tearfulness
  • Excessive worrying
  • Frequent trips to the nurse
  • A decline in academic performance

Over the years, our education system has made tremendous progress in identifying and helping children struggling with anxiety. One of the most common are accommodations under a 504 Plan. An example of an accommodation used in a 504 Plan would be adjusting the child’s seating arrangement (often referred to as “preferential seating”). An anxious child may feel more comfortable sitting closer to the teacher, or further away from a highly-energetic or rambunctious child. Another accommodation is extra time on tests (often referred to as “time and a half”), since test-taking can be a common trigger for anxiety. If you feel a 504 Plan might be helpful and appropriate for your child, it would be a good idea to plan a parent-teacher conference to discuss your options.

Close communication and collaboration between teachers and parents is a great way to ensure that your child is getting his or her needs met in the classroom. Sometimes, anxious kids just need a little extra encouragement and reassurance. Positive reinforcement is an excellent tool used for pointing out a child’s successes and efforts, and rewarding them for it. Many schools have a social worker or counselor on staff as well. Social workers and counselors are specifically trained to help children struggling with anxiety and other social-emotional issues. One-on one or small group sessions can be extremely beneficial in helping manage anxiety at school. Incorporating social work minutes into your child’s schedule is a great way to provide your child with extra support during the day.

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

Social Work

Rachel Warsaw

Rachel Warsaw

Rachel Warsaw is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) with a strong passion for working with children and families. She earned a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Human Development and Family Studies, and a Master of Arts degree from Loyola University in Social Work. Rachel spent two years working in Early Intervention, serving children between the ages of birth through three years old with developmental delays. She also worked in Child Welfare doing in-home counseling and case management for families referred by the Department of Children and Family Services. Rachel has an Illinois Educator’s License with School Social Work Endorsement (Type 73), and was the School Social Work Intern at Deerfield High School during the 2011-2012 school year. Rachel is also proficient in the Spanish language.

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