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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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Taylor Reckert

Taylor Reckert

Taylor Reckert specializes in pediatric occupational therapy. She is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University where she received her bachelor’s degree of science and master‘s degree of occupational therapy. Taylor has always had a passion for working with children. In high school she worked at an occupational therapy pediatric clinic which solidified her love for the profession and working in pediatrics. While in college Taylor was part of a research team that studied the effects of integrated play groups on children with autism spectrum disorders. She completed an internship at the Detroit Institute for Children where she worked with children and gained experience with various diagnoses. Taylor's other internship was at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago where she worked with people who had experienced a spinal cord injury. She is an upbeat, active, energetic person that enjoys helping children reach their fullest potential!

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Pros and Cons of Fidget Spinners for Kids

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

Pros of fidget spinners:

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

Cons of fidget spinners:

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

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

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

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Brett Siegel

Brett Siegel

Brett Siegel received his Bachelor and Masters degrees in Social Work at The University of Kansas and Loyola University Chicago respectively. While completing his Master's degree, Brett's field practicum took place at Rainbow Hospice, providing therapy for children working through the grief process followed by an internship year at Lutheran General Hospital providing diagnosis and psychotherapy on the mental health adolescent unit. While attaining his LCSW certification, Brett moved to Bloomington, Illinois where he served as a crisis therapist for children and their families. Brett joins North Shore Pediatric Therapy with a plethora of experiences that have served to foster professional growth and development. He has worked extensively in the areas of case management and clinical/therapeutic interventions with children, adults, families and groups. His professional interests include, but are not limited to pediatric and adolescent mental health, the bullying epidemic and the impact of divorce on children and their families.

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IEP Meetings From a Mom’s Perspective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Julie Hrdlicka

Julie Hrdlicka

Julie is a graduate of the University of Saint Francis in Joliet with a degree in Communications with a concentration in Graphic Design and Advertising. There, she was also a 4-year member of the softball team and team captain in the 2001-2002 season earning all-conference and all-region accolades. After graduation she spent 5 years as the marketing manager for the Chicago Bulls White Sox Training Academy and almost 8 years as the brand manager for Athletico before joining NSPT. In her spare time she spends time with her two young children whether it’s being at the soccer field, playing at the park, or a family trip to the forest preserve for fishing.

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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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Lindsey Moyer

Lindsey Moyer

Lindsey Moyer, is a licensed pediatric occupational therapist. She graduated from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan with a Bachelors Degree in Health and Human Services. A year later, she graduated with her Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy. While a student, Lindsey gained expansive knowledge of the field by working in a variety of settings with people of varying ages and disabilities. Lindsey’s interest and compassion for working with children and their families became apparent as she completed internships and independent studies focusing on educational, social, and physical development. One such internship was completed at North Shore Pediatric Therapy (NSPT). Lindsey loves supporting kids in the acquisition of skills needed to lead fun and enriching childhoods.

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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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Sima Rashidianfar

Sima Rashidianfar is a licensed and registered occupational therapist (MS, OTR/L) with a love and passion for working with the pediatric population. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Human Development & Family Studies with a concentration in Child & Adolescent Development. She then received her Master of Science degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago in Occupational Therapy. Sima is also a certified Early Intervention Specialist. She recently spent a year at Aspire Kids in Hillside, servicing children with developmental disabilities within homes/daycares through Early Intervention and at the outpatient clinic. Sima has experience working with children who have autism, sensory processing disorders, developmental delay, ADHD, brachial plexus, prematurity, learning disabilities, Down Syndrome, and muscular dystrophy. Prior to attending graduate school, Sima worked at Giant Steps Illinois in Lisle, a therapeutic day school for children with Autism. Sima is dedicated to assisting children with their engagement and participation in daily activities both directly and in collaboration with parents, caretakers, and other professionals, to help meet each child’s greatest potential.

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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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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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Sensory Tips for Crowded Holiday Spaces

The holidays are a festive, fun and exciting time to celebrate with family and friends; however, they also bring about a plethora of sensory stimuli everywhere you go! Between the sights, sounds, smells and crowds our senses are overloaded with the spirit of the holiday season. For some people, particularly children with sensory processing difficulties, this time of year can cause stress, anxiety and uneasiness. blog-holiday-sensory tips-main-landscape

In addition to increased environmental stimuli around the holidays, typical routines are thrown off due to breaks from school and travel plans. Children with sensory processing difficulties benefit from a schedule that is predictable, so they know exactly what to expect and how to plan for new or different sensory experiences.

Below are 8 sensory tips to help make the holidays and crowded holiday spaces more enjoyable for your whole family:

  1. Prepare your child for the various events that he will experience over the holidays including specific parties, shopping events or travel. Give explanations of where you are going, what you will do there, what he may see, hear or smell. This will help him to know what to expect at these different places without being worried.
  2. Practice! Before going to various holiday events or places, practice. Stop by the mall with your child for a few minutes a few times before the holiday season, spend time at family or friend’s houses that will be visited over the holidays or visit the airport a few times ahead of your travel day. Giving your child an opportunity to experience these places when they are not as crowded will help him be successful during the busy times.
  3. Use a visual calendar that identifies daily activities over the holidays so your child feels comfortable with their winter break routine. Review each day’s events prior to leaving the house, so your child can better prepare himself for what to expect.
  4. Review pictures or videos from the previous year’s holiday events to remind your child of the sights, sounds, smells and crowds he will experience.
  5. Be prepared! During over stimulating situations your child may benefit from sensory strategies such as headphones, ear plugs, sunglasses, weighted objects or a favorite toy. Be sure to be prepared with these items during crowded holiday events. These strategies will help decrease the intensity of environmental stimuli.
  6. Be proactive! If you see your child becoming upset or overstimulated, find a place to take a break from the situation (bathroom, car, quiet hallway) and help him calm down.
  7. Arm your child with strategies ahead of time to help him through a situation where he feels he is becoming upset or overwhelmed. Strategies such as deep breathing or counting to 10 may help decrease anxiety. Encourage your child to let you know when he feels he needs a break.
  8. Talk to family members and friends about the difficulties your child may have and educate them on how they can help.

Have a wonderful holiday season!

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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Sensory Processing Disorder and Fall Activities: Strategies to Promote Success at Apple Orchards and Pumpkin Patches

Fall is the perfect time of the year for children to explore apple orchards and pumpkin patches. These outdoor activities expose children to various sensory experiences. Children with Sensoryblog-sensory processing disorder-fall-activities-main-landscape Processing Disorder (SPD) may have a difficult time appropriately responding to the sensory input that they are exposed to at these community events.

Below are several strategies to help prepare for and promote a successful experience at apple orchards and pumpkin patches with a child with Sensory Processing Disorder:

Preparation

Prior to leaving for the orchard or pumpkin patch, prepare your child for what he or she is about to experience (especially if it is the first trip to these fall sites). Have your child look at pictures or books related to these fall activities. Share with them the activities that they will partake in, so they know what to expect (e.g. hay ride, mazes, drinking cider). Discuss safety and the importance of staying together (e.g. holding hands).

What to Bring

Pack the essentials:

  • Clothing for various weather changes
  • Sunglasses/hat for children who are sensitive to bright sunlight
  • Preferred and comforting food/drinks
    • Crunchy/chewy foods and drinks that involve sucking thicker liquids through a straw can help regulate the body
  • Familiar or soothing item from home to help calm your child down or a fidget to help keep hands to self (e.g. blanket, toy)

Hula-Hoop Space/Retreat Spot

Some children have a hard time being in close proximity to other people and objects. To help them avoid feeling overwhelmed by this experience in the orchard and pumpkin patch, encourage your child to create a ‘hula-hoop space’ with his or her arms arched in front of the belly and fingertips touching. This will help your child visually see and physically feel how much space should be between him or her and other people/objects. As a family, determine a ‘retreat spot’ at the orchard or patch that you and your children can retreat to help re-organize the body and take a break.

Regulating Heavy Work

Your child may seek out a lot of movement and take climbing risks. Heavy work activities can help organize and regulate the body. At an apple orchard or pumpkin patch you can encourage the following heavy work activities. Be sure to appropriately modify the weight your child pulls/carries/pushes based on his or her age and size:

  • Pull a wagon
  • Push pumpkins
  • Carry a sack of apples

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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Sima Rashidianfar

Sima Rashidianfar is a licensed and registered occupational therapist (MS, OTR/L) with a love and passion for working with the pediatric population. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Human Development & Family Studies with a concentration in Child & Adolescent Development. She then received her Master of Science degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago in Occupational Therapy. Sima is also a certified Early Intervention Specialist. She recently spent a year at Aspire Kids in Hillside, servicing children with developmental disabilities within homes/daycares through Early Intervention and at the outpatient clinic. Sima has experience working with children who have autism, sensory processing disorders, developmental delay, ADHD, brachial plexus, prematurity, learning disabilities, Down Syndrome, and muscular dystrophy. Prior to attending graduate school, Sima worked at Giant Steps Illinois in Lisle, a therapeutic day school for children with Autism. Sima is dedicated to assisting children with their engagement and participation in daily activities both directly and in collaboration with parents, caretakers, and other professionals, to help meet each child’s greatest potential.

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Sensory Processing Disorder and the School Cafeteria: Strategies for Lunchtime Success

Trays clashing. Silverware clinking. Kids shouting. Scary vegetables. Bright lights. Weird smells. People everywhere.Blog-Sensory-Cafeteria-Main-Landscape

The school cafeteria provides a wide array of sensory experiences all at once. Some kids, especially those with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), can be overwhelmed by any or all of the sensory aspects of a cafeteria. Preparing your child or student for this part of the school day can help them enjoy, not dread, lunchtime!

  1. Location, location, location- Where a child sits in the cafeteria can greatly affect a his or her behavior and sensory input. For a child who is easily visually distracted, sit them so they’re facing away from the entire room so they can focus on their meal. For a child with sensitivity to smells, make sure they are sitting as far away from the lunch line as possible.
  2. Help the child advocate for themselves- Children with SPD can feel when they’re starting to get overwhelmed by whatever sensory stimuli is bothering them, but they can have a hard time verbalizing it. Teach the child that when they start feeling bad, upset, or their “engine” is running too fast (or any other term you use when your child is escalating) to tell the teacher they need a break. This could be a movement break, or a break in the hall for some quiet time.
  3. Give the child a fidget- This is a small toy the child can fidget with, ideally, without distracting other children. This would be great for the child who has a hard time not touching his friends who are sitting close to him.
  4. Put a sensory toolkit in their lunchbox- This can vary from child to child, depending on what their sensory needs are. You could put in a fidget for the child who has a hard time sitting still, or a favorite lip balm or lotion for the child who is sensitive to smells to give them a familiar scent to help calm them down (or one to mask the smell of the cafeteria). You could put in pictures of sensory strategies as reminders of how to calm down if they’re getting overwhelmed (e.g. deep breaths, hand pushes, chair push-ups). Sunglasses could be helpful for the child who is sensitive to the bright lights in the cafeteria.
  5. Familiar foods- For those children with oral sensory sensitivities who are picky eaters, make sure to pack foods they will eat. This is not the time to send mustard on their sandwich for the first time or ask them to try whatever the cafeteria is serving. Have your child help you pack their lunch so they know what to expect, or go over the menu for the week with them and choose the day(s) they will buy their lunch.
  6. Regulating foods- crunchy foods (e.g. carrots, pretzel sticks) can be very regulating for children with SPD, particularly children with oral-seeking behaviors. Other great food ideas include sucking thick liquids (yogurt, applesauce) from a straw, hard candies, or gum.

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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Kimberly Reid

Kimberly Reid

Kim Reid, OTR/L is a Florida native who earned her Bachelors of Health Science and Masters of Occupational Therapy from the University of Florida. Kim has worked in various settings, including camps for children with special needs, retirement homes, and hospitals. She enjoys being outdoors, traveling, and spending time with her family and friends. Kim is excited to be a member of the North Shore Pediatric Therapy team!

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