Helping A Child Cope Who Has A Parent in the Military

When a family is coping with a caretaker’s absence, it can be challenging and emotional, especially when it is due to deployment and military service.  The emotions, concerns, and needs of each family are unique but here is some information on what to expect from children when one of their caretakers are away on deployment, and some information on how to answer difficult questions children may have.blog-military-main-landscape

Here are some helpful hints about what to tell your children regarding their caretaker’s deployment:

  • Emphasis that the child is not at fault in any way for the parent leaving.
  • Let the child know where the parent will be. This can help reduce some anxiety about their absence.  You can show them where it is on a map, learn about the country where they are (language, customs, etc.).   In addition,  it can be helpful to talk about the parent’s schedule when they are gone and what they will be doing when they are there.  Remember to keep that information age appropriate.
  • TALK about it! Encourage your child to talk about their feelings regarding the deployment and acknowledge that it’s okay to feel that away. A child has a right to be sad or angry about the recent change.  Also, talk about the parent who is gone.  It is important to talk about the parent to help keep their presence at home and to help the adjustment when the parent returns.
  • Limit the outside information (news, papers, movies, and internet) that the child can access about war or military action. Make sure the information they do get is accurate and age appropriate.

Each child and family is different and their reactions can have a wide range of feelings and behaviors, but here is a few common reactions children may experience when coping with a parent on deployment.

0-2 years old: One of the biggest changes for this age group will be when the caretaker returns from deployment.  It is important to allow the child to warm up to the caretaker and understand that they need to get know the parent again.

3-5 years old:  At this age, children have difficulty understanding why the caretaker had to leave.  They also may be scared that the at-home parent may leave as well.  Being consistent in their schedule prior to deployment can help them feel calm and secure.   Adjusting to life after deployment can be difficult for this age group as well.  They may feel angry at the parent for leaving.

6-12 years old:  Be on the lookout for increased aggression or behavioral issues at home or school, or physical symptoms like stomachaches or headaches.  Children who are older may want to help out more around the house and take on that parent role.  Although there are still some concerns with adjustment after deployment, children in this age group are usually excited and proud of the returning caretaker.

13-17 years old:  Teens express emotions and feelings in a wide variety of ways and that is even truer of teens coping with a parent being deployed.  Teens may want to help out more, or act indifferent to the change.  It is important to look out for behavioral or mood changes.

The most important aspect of everything discussed in this blog is COMMUNICATION.  Allow your children to discuss their feelings and let them know it is okay for them to feel the way they do.

References:

http://militarykidsconnect.dcoe.mil/parents/coping/behaviors

http://www.military.com/spouse/military-deployment/dealing-with-deployment/help-child-cope-with-parents-deployment.html

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

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5 Tips on How to Respond to Articulation Errors

A child who is still developing his or her articulation skills may need some feedback in order to fix speech errors and improve intelligibility. blog-articulation-errors-main-landscape

The following tips will help you respond to a child who produces articulation errors:

  1. Repeat the misarticulated word in your response with a slight emphasis on the target word. For example, if the student says, “I want the wed pencil,” you can respond, “Okay—here is the red
  2. Describe features about the misarticulated sound. For example, “The /s/ is a hissy sound. The air goes sssss like a snake hissing” or “The /v/ is made when our teeth bite down on our lip.”
  3. Give the child a consistent visual cue for the target sound, such as dragging a finger across the lips for /m/ or putting a thumb under the chin for /k/ or /g/.
  4. For a child who can read, contrast sounds that contain the correct sound and the incorrect sound by writing them out. For example, you can write out thin fin and show the child that one is made with a th and the other with an f.
  5. If you know that the child is able to produce the target sound, give him or her feedback on what you heard. You can say, “I heard you say doe, did you mean doe or go?” or feign difficulty understanding, such as, “You want to doe home? What do you mean, doe home?”

If you are unable to determine what word the child is trying to say, refer to this article for more tips: https://nspt4kids.com/parenting/helping-your-child-with-articulation-difficulties/.

As a parent or a teacher, it is important to acknowledge attempts at communication while providing feedback on speech sound production. If your child continues to demonstrate speech sound errors or is frustrated with his or her speech, seek out the advice of a speech-language pathologist.

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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Tips for Teaching Language to Your Toddler During Daily Routines

As a busy parent, hearing that your child needs help talking can be overwhelming. You already have a Teaching Languageto-do list that feels a mile long— When are you supposed to find time to work on teaching language? The good news is there are ways to incorporate language into the routines that you already do every day! One of the tricks to helping your toddler talk is for YOU to do a lot of the talking. Children need to hear words over and over again to understand them. Just like if you’ve ever learned a second language, they want to hear it a lot before trying it out for themselves! The key here is to focus on doing the talking to build up your toddler’s understanding, which will help her to become confident and ready to use the words with less and less help.

Here are a few daily routines that are perfect to work on teaching language:

Bath time:

  • Describe what you are doing during bath time. Remember to keep the language simple so your toddler can focus on the words. As you do this every day, your toddler will remember the routine, and may begin to fill in the blanks (e.g. Dad: “Shirt on! Socks….” Toddler: “On!”). While doing these actions, tell your child:
    • “Shirt off! Socks off! Pants off!”
    • “Diaper on! Socks on! Shirt on!  Pants on!”
    • “Duck in! Boat in!”
    • “Duck out! Boat out!”
  • Use action words while playing in the bath tub
    • A cup can be a great toy for playing. You can show your child how to “pour” the water. If your child is working on requests, she can request for you to “pour,” she can say “my turn” to have a turn pouring (just be careful so she doesn’t try to drink the bath water!), and she can request “all done” when she wants to finish playing with the cup.
    • Describe cleaning actions to your child. Tell her “Wash,” “Rinse,” and “Wipe” while you are giving her a bath. These words are especially important as your little one may be working on washing her hands more independently soon.

Bringing in the groceries:

  • Talk to your child about what you are doing while putting groceries away. This is a great opportunity for your child to practice following directions and to learn food and action vocabulary.
    • “Carry the bag”
    • “Beans! Put the beans in” (while putting a can of beans in the cabinet)
    • “Apples! Put apples in” (while putting apples in a basket)
    • After you have exposed your child to food vocabulary, you can have him identify foods for you. Take out an apple, a banana, and a carrot. Ask your child “Can I have the apple?” He has to find the food and follow directions to give it to you. As your child learns more, you can give him more items to choose from and ask for two items. When he begins naming foods (e.g. “Nana” for “banana”) smile and encourage him. You can expand his language by telling him “Banana! You found the yellow banana!” You may be surprised by how motivating this can be! Children love to be included and help you.

Getting dressed:

  • Have your toddler request which clothes to put on first. You can give him choices to assist with language production. Showing him one item at a time, ask “Do you want PANTS? (show the pants in one hand)  or Do you want SHIRT?” (show the shirt with the other hand). Remember to hold the clothes out of your child’s reach so that he has to communicate to you by pointing or talking. Your child can pick which one to put on first. Watch what he points to and, if he points to shirt, encourage him to say “Shirt.” If your child does not repeat the word, honor his choice and say the word “shirt” for him while putting the shirt on him.
  • Once your child is more familiar with clothing vocabulary, have him find the clothing. Put a shirt, pants, and socks on the floor for him to find. Tell him, “Give me the socks,” and wait for him to find the socks and bring them to you. Remember to say the direction the same way and slowly so that your child can focus on your words. If your child prefers to be more independent, you can lay out two outfits so that he can choose which pants and shirt to put together.

Tips & Tricks:

  • Keep your language simple
  • Speak slowly
  • Talk for them instead of asking questions (e.g. “It’s a duck! Quack quack.” instead of “What is it? Do you see it?  What color is it? What does it say?” –Questions can be overwhelming, and asking too many makes your child unsure of what to answer).
  • WAIT for your child to respond
  • Accept their attempts at saying a word, such as “dah” for “dog”
  • Model the word for them & expand on what they say: “Dog!  You see a dog.”
  • Honor their choice
  • Have fun!

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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How to Motivate the Unorganized Child

Executive functioning challenges can often be overlooked as children are otherwise labeled as lazy or Unorganized Childunmotivated. If a child has difficulties with executive functioning he or she may present with behaviors of avoidance, emotional outbursts, or not even acknowledging the task at hand. This is probably because they are feeling overwhelmed and do not have the foundational skills needed to problem solve through organizational tasks. Helping your child to develop these skills can support their independent success and can increase future task initiation toward personal organization.

What Can Parents Do to Help an Unorganized Child?

Support them, assist in their growth of skills, and praise any small triumph! The general idea is to have the child learn the problem solving skills required to think through tasks that are seemingly overwhelming. First you always, ALWAYS start small, then tackle bigger projects as they can manage. Then as they make achievements, don’t forget to recognize their hard work! Praise moments of follow through and self-initiated tasks with recognition and/or rewards.

5 Tips to Help Organize Their Life:

  1. Establish a place to write it all down- daily planners and a family calendar are great tools to keep track of their time.
  2. Introduce Responsibility- Create a Chore chart and a To-Do list as a family. Don’t forget to keep their age and time needed for completion of these activities in mind when choosing the appropriate task(s).
  3. Acknowledge that the time is ticking- Visual timers are great for those children who tend to take more time than necessary on simple tasks. Timers can also help to keep a child focused and engaged in the activity.
  4. Create a place for all items to have a specific home- Designate places for items and stick to it. Growing up with the golden rule  ‘Always place an item back in its original place, in its same or better condition’ may help keep the house cleaner. Utilizing organizational tools, such as visual prompts (numbering, color coding) and charts can help too.
  5. Check in- They will need a little help! Have the children show you their completed work, planner, clean space, etc. Make them feel accomplished and help them problem solve solutions to existing problems.

5 Activity Ideas to Facilitate their Organizational Skills:

  1. Tackle a junk drawer, pantry shelf, or game closet- Have them help a parent problem solve through the organization of a messy place. Starting in a small place is key so there are no overwhelming moments too big for the child. Have the child think through the task with the parent facilitating only when needed.
  2. Cook with your child- A successful meal requires significant planning, working memory, organization, and time management.  See how much they can lead the cooking activity and help when needed. This can be fun for the child while having a great learning experience!
  3. Have them set up the family’s calendar for the next week or month- Give them the tools to place all of the activities on the calendar and check their work when done. Have the child help recognize and problem solve through time conflicts.
  4. Create an annual family night with board games- Board games are great for independent thinking and problem solving. Their success within a board game can greatly depend on their ability to organize themselves and materials within the game.
  5. Assist with putting together new things- Following written or verbal directions can be very difficult. With supervision and help, have the child responsible for constructing and/or setting up new purchased items.

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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Self-Care Skills for Children with Autism

Self-care skills such as brushing teeth, washing hands, and dressing are important for children to learn Blog-Self-Care-Skills-Main-Landscapeas they affect their everyday lives. For children diagnosed with Autism, they often experience delays in learning these skills and may need a different way of teaching to acquire them. Using some behavior analytic techniques, these skills can be taught in an appropriate way suitable for your child to be successful.

Is your child ready to perform self-care skills?

  • Component skills: In order to ensure success with the desired self-care skill, make sure that your child can perform the basic skills necessary for the task. For example, for the skill of brushing teeth, this may include: pincer grasps, holding a toothbrush, moving a toothbrush in a back and forth motion, spitting out toothpaste, squeezing toothpaste tube, gargling water.
  • Attending: Can your child pay attention and tolerate the duration of the skill?
  • Complexity of composite skill: Can your child put together the component skills to perform parts of the desired task?

If your child is unable to perform the component skills, attend to the desired self-care task, or combine component skills, work on building up this repertoire before moving forward. Providing help and lots of positive reinforcement with these tasks will make learning the desired skill easier!

Now that your child is ready, how can you teach your child to perform self-care skills?

  • Chaining: This strategy involves breaking down the steps of the skill into multiple pieces. Once the steps are broken up, teaching can occur by linking steps together.
    • The steps can be linked together from the beginning of the skill. For example, brushing teeth can begin with allowing the child to put toothpaste on the tooth brush and run the tooth brush under the water. The rest of the steps of the skill can be prompted by an adult. As the child becomes more independent with the first few steps, more steps can be added for him or her to perform independently as a chain.
    • Steps can also be linked from the end of the skill. For example, for hand washing, you can have the child wipe his or her hands independently on the towel. As the child becomes more independent with that skills, you can also introduce turning off the water to the chain of steps. All the steps prior to those mentioned steps can be prompted by an adult.
  • Social Stories: These stories outline the appropriate way to engage in the desired task. Each page can describe the steps and how to complete the skill. They can be in the form of videos, audio, or written (with pictures). Each child may respond better to one form over another.

What supports can you use with these strategies?

  • Visuals: You can provide visuals of each step of the task posted in the location that the skill will occur in. For example, with hand washing, some pictures can include turning on the sink, hands under the soap dispenser, or rubbing hands with soap. Modeling the skill before the child engages in the skill may also help the child learn by imitating your actions.
  • Physical prompts: You can physically guide your child with your hands on top of theirs to allow them to get used to the motion of the task. Then, you can reduce your physical prompts (e.g., move your hands to their elbows or moving farther away and pointing to the correct step) until they can complete the skill independently.
  • Vocal prompts: You can vocally instruct the child to perform each step as they are performing the skill. Then, you can fade your prompts until they can do the skill independently.

Working on the component skills independently until the child can easily and reliably perform them can greatly increase their success with putting those steps together. A combination of different supports listed above can provide a way for you to teach your child how to engage in complex self-care skills. Providing and fading your physical and vocal prompts can take some practice. It may be beneficial to work with a BCBA to ensure the success of your approach and the acquisition of these skills.

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

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Horrible Haircuts and Terrible Toothpaste: Helping Your Child With Sensory Processing Disorder Tolerate Hygiene

Children of all ages often find basic hygiene tasks boring, annoying, and tedious. Who wants to brush their teeth when they can go play outside? While it can be difficult to get any child to perform these tasks, it is exponentially more difficult for a child with Sensory Processing Disorder.  Sensory Processing Disorder

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) involves atypical processing and integration of incoming sensory information. A child with SPD may have difficulty processing any of the five senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell). They also may have difficulty processing the two “hidden senses,” proprioception (processing input from muscles and joints) and vestibular processing (processing input regarding movement and head position). Children with difficulty modulating incoming sensory input often have strong sensitivities to certain sensations, which can interfere with their ability to participate in age-appropriate activities.

Why Do Children with Sensory Processing Disorder Struggle with Hygiene?

Many children, especially those with tactile and auditory processing difficulties, have difficulty with hygiene and grooming. Engaging in these activities with children with SPD can often feel like a fight. This is because children with sensory sensitivities often go into “fight or flight” mode when presented with aversive sensations. While the buzz of an electric trimmer, the cold metal of a nail clipper, or sticky soap that just won’t seem to rinse off may not be your favorite, for a child with SPD if may feel like walking the plank!

How Can I Help My Child?

The good news is there are many strategies to help your child with SPD tolerate hygiene tasks with fewer outbursts. Below are a few steps involved in creating a grooming routine that works for you and your family.

Step 1: Figure out what your child is afraid of.

It is very important to determine which particular sensations are the problem. If your child is old enough, you can ask him or her about which specific sensations he or she dislikes or fears. This may also help you find some quick and easy solutions; perhaps the smell of the particular brand of soap or taste of toothpaste is the culprit.

If your child is too young or does not have the self-awareness or communication skills to discuss hygiene tasks, it will be your job to figure out what is bothering him or her. Think of yourself as a “sensory detective” and examine your child during these tasks. Does she pull away at the touch of a brush? Does he cower at the sound of the hair dryer? Observing your child and spending some time analyzing what bothers him or her will get you closer to finding a solution!

Step 2: Change your routine based on their particular sensory sensitivities:

If your child has tactile (touch) processing difficulties or sensitivities:
– Engage in deep touch pressure activities before and after the hygiene task. By providing deep touch pressure to a child’s body, he or she becomes less sensitive to undesired “light touch” inputs. There are many ways to provide deep touch pressure: firm massage to the limbs, upper back, and head; use a therapeutic body brush if you have been trained by an occupational therapist to use one; apply firm pressure on a large pillow or blanket to give your child’s body “squishes.” And don’t forget- tight hugs are a highly underrated mechanism for deep touch pressure!

– Provide pressure during the task. Try applying more pressure to the head when brushing hair. Utilize a weighted or heavy blanket on your child’s lap during a hair or nail trim. Have your child wear a compression shirt or compression vest during activities.

– Consider temperature. If a cold nail clipper feels sterile and uninviting, warm it up. If the faucet is normally on cold when your child washes hands, add some hot water and give a few minutes to warm up. Temperature can make a huge difference!

– Consider purchasing an electric toothbrush. For some children with tactile sensitivities, vibration can be a very regulating sensation. If you are unsure how your child will respond, experiment with a vibrating oral massager (e.g. Z-Vibe, Jiggler) before investing in a pricy electric toothbrush.

If your child has auditory (sound) processing difficulties:
– Warn the child before your turn the device on. This allows the child to mentally prepare for a hair dryer, electric toothbrush, or razor to turn on.

– Allow the child to wear headphones, if it does not interfere with the activity.

Step 3: Build a consistent grooming routine.

Children with SPD rely on routines to help them make sense of the world. The more your child can expect and rely on a familiar routine, the calmer he or she will be.

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

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Teaching A Child Ownership of Their Home Routine

Routines are an important part of everyone’s daily life, but they are especially important for children. Routines allow a child to have a sense of control over their environment and learn responsibility. Routines can help improve regulation, transitions, and decrease stress and anxiety surrounded by change and uncertainty. Blog-Home-Routine-Main-Landscape

Children learn to become emotionally ready for what is to come next when a routine is established. Routines allow for a child to learn in comfortable and safe boundaries and gain satisfaction and confidence in learning these routines independently. But with today’s busy lifestyle, family routines are changing on a daily basis which can impact the child’s ability to become independent and successful with their home routine.

Below are some tips to help improve your child’s confidence and success in their home routine:

Create a visual schedule

Depending on your child’s age, you can use pictures or written words to outline your home routine. Break the routine down in to easy steps for your child to follow. You can also have your child check off each step once completed to give your child a sense of accomplishment. This also allows your child to visually see their success, which will help provide motivation.

Be consistent

This is key! Don’t give up after a few failed attempts. Your child needs to know what to do at what time of day in order to learn the routine and become successful independently.

Be positive and provide rewards

Do not reprimand your child. This will increase the chances that your child will lose motivation and not complete their routine. Mistakes and bad behavior will occur, but reinforce only the positive things they do throughout completing the routine. As they become more confident and successful in their routine, you can begin to fade out the rewards.

Model the routine

Show your child the correct way to do each step of the routine and assist them if need be. Many children are visual learners and will learn by doing. With practice, they will become more independent in each step.

Provide choice within the routine

Allow your child to choose parts of the routine. For example, which shampoo or toothpaste they want to use. This will give your child a sense of control during the routine and motivate them to complete the tasks given.

Prepare the night before

Pack backpacks, lay out clothes, make lunches, etc. Involve your child in the preparation and tell your child what is expected of them the next day so they can begin to mentally prepare.

Build in extra time

When first learning to complete routines independently, your child may require additional time to get through the routine. As we all know, practice makes perfect, so make sure you plan enough time to allow for mistakes.

If your child has difficulty with completing their home routines successfully and independently, seek guidance of an occupational therapist.

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

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Best Apps to Reinforce Occupational Therapy Concepts

Within our day and age, technology can be used in many ways to facilitate daily functional skills. In regards to occupational therapy, there are many apps that can be used to facilitate and reinforce occupational therapy concepts at home with your child. The following apps are great for facilitating listening skills, transitions, attending to tasks, self-regulation, body awareness and handwriting skills. Blog-Occupational-Therapy-Concepts-Main-Portrait

These apps are easy to use and can be used anywhere and at any time to reinforce occupational therapy concepts:

Metronome App

  • Importance and benefits of using a metronome:
    • Help develop and improve rhythm
    • Improves listening skills
    • Facilitates the ability to attend over an extended period of time.
  • Population:
    • Any child with difficulties following directions, attention, and rhythm.

ASD Tools

  • Importance and benefits:
    • Helps with transitioning from one activity to another, attending to specific tasks, as well as, following directions.
  • Features:
    • Visual schedule
    • First-then visual
    • Timer with a visual
    • Reward system
  • Population:

Brainworks

  • Importance and benefits:
    • Great and easy way to develop activities for a sensory diet.
  • Features:
    • Organizes all the activities into what would be best for your child.
    • Provides 130 sensory activities with pictures and descriptions.
    • Provides activities that can be completed at home, school, in the community, or at a table or desk.
    • Allows you to choose whether your child is feeling “just right, slow and sluggish, fast and stressed, or fast and hyper”- a list of sensory activities will be provided based on how the child is feeling.
  • Population:

Handwriting Without Tears: Wet-Dry-Try

  • Importance and benefits:
    • Great app that allows children to practice handwriting.
    • Provides multisensory ways to practice correct letter formation.
  • Features:
    • Capital/lower case letters, and numbers on a chalkboard with double lines.
    • Has a left-handed setting.
    • Reports errors for extra guidance.
  • Population:
    • Helpful for children with poor handwriting skills including letter formation and sizing.

Zones of Regulation App

  • Importance and benefits:
    • Great app for developing self-regulation strategies.
    • Helps children develop skills to assist in regulating their bodies, emotions, and behaviors.
    • Helps children acknowledge how they feel and acquire the skills to create strategies to cope with their emotions.
  • Features:
    • Mini games to help facilitate learning the zones of regulation and develop strategies to facilitate emotional control and self-regulation.
  • Population:
    • Helpful for children who have difficulty with emotional control and self-regulation.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

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Fine Motor Skills: Is Your Child Lagging Behind?

Fine motor coordination is the capacity of the small muscles of the upper body to allow Blog-fine-motor-skills-Main-Portraitfor controlled movements of the fingers and hands. They include the ability to hold a writing utensil, eat with a fork, open containers, and fasten clothing. These small movements correspond with larger muscles such as the shoulder girdle, back, and core to provide stability for gross motor functioning and with the eyes for hand-eye coordination. Weaknesses in fine motor skills are often the result of poor hand strength and poor motor coordination.

Red Flags for School-Aged Children

As a former Kindergarten teacher, at the start of each school year, I received a group of children with an assortment of fine motor skill-sets. Because children have such different preschool experiences, their skills will vary based on the activities to which they have been exposed. If a child has had the opportunity to practice cutting with scissors, for example, he or she will likely be able to accomplish snipping a piece of paper by 2.5 years old. Fine motor development occurs at an irregular pace, but follows a step-by-step progression and builds onto previously acquired skills.

By the approximate ages listed below, your child should be able to demonstrate these fine motor skills:

2 to 2.5 Years

  • Puts on and takes off socks and shoes
  • Can use a spoon by himself, keeping it upright
  • Draws a vertical line when given a visual example or after an adult demonstrates
  • Holds crayon with fingers, not fist

2.5 to 3 Years

  • Builds a tower of blocks
  • Draws horizontal & vertical lines when given a visual example or after an adult demonstrates
  • Unscrews a lid from a jar
  • Snips paper with scissors
  • Able to string large beads
  • Drinks from an open cup with two hands, may spill occasionally

3 to 3.5 Years

  • Can get himself dressed & undressed independently, still needs help with buttons, may confuse front/back of clothes and right/left shoe
  • Draws a circle when given a visual example or after an adult demonstrates
  • Can feed himself solid foods with little to no spilling, using a spoon or fork
  • Drinks from an open cup with one hand
  • Cuts 8×11” paper in half with scissors

3.5 to 4 Years

  • Can pour water from a half-filled pitcher
  • Able to string small beads
  • Uses a “tripod” grasp (thumb and tips of first two fingers) to draw, but moves forearm and wrist as a unit
  • Uses fork or spoon to scoop food away from self and maneuver to mouth without using other hand to help food onto fork/spoon

4 to 4.5 Years

  • Maneuvers scissors to cut both straight and curved lines
  • Manages zippers and snaps independently, buttons and unbuttons with minimal assistance
  • Draws and copies a square and a cross
  • Uses a “tripod” grasp (thumb and tips of first two fingers) to draw, but begins to move hand independently from forearm
  • Writes first name with or without visual example

4.5 to 5 Years

  • Can feed himself soup with little to no spilling
  • Folds paper in half with edges meeting
  • Puts key in a lock and opens it

5 to 6 Years

  • Can get dressed completely independently, including buttons and snaps, able to tie shoelaces
  • Cuts square, triangle, circle, and simple pictures with scissors
  • Draws and copies a diagonal line and a triangle
  • Uses a knife to spread food items
  • Consistently uses “tripod” grasp to write, draw, and hold feeding utensils while moving hand independently from forearm
  • Colors inside the lines
  • Writes first name without a visual example, last name may be written with visual
  • Handedness well established

By age 7, children are usually adept at most fine motor skills, but refinement continues into late childhood. If you notice your young child demonstrating difficulties in the above “red flag” areas, it may be time to consult with an occupational therapist. For at-home ideas to improve hand strength and fine motor abilities, read my other blog, Fine Motor Skills: Ideas for At-Home Improvement.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Meet-With-An-Occupational-Therapist
Resources:

Beery, K.E., & Beery, N.A. (2006). The Beery-Buktenica Developmental Test of Visual Motor Integration. Minneapolis: NSC Pearson

Folio, M.R., & Fewell, R.R. (2000). Peabody Developmental Motor Scales, 2nd Ed. Austin: Pro-Ed.

Retherford, K.S. (1996). Normal Development: A Database of Communication and Related Behaviors. Greenville, SC: Super Duper Publications

Puberty for Children With Autism

One of the most popular questions I get asked from parents of young children with autism is, “What is my child’s future going to look like?” While early intervention is a crucial part of the treatment of autism, thinking ahead to what puberty and the teenage years might look like is an important consideration, as well. Puberty and adolescence are difficult times for every pre-teen, and adding the challenges that come from having a diagnosis of autism can feel overwhelming to you, your child, and your family. It is important to go into this time with tools and strategies to help your child feel as comfortable and confident as possible, while also finding ways for your child to increase their independence in these areas.

Self-Care Skills for children with AutismBlog-Autism-Purberty-Main-Landscape

Self-care skills such as bathing, using deodorant, brushing teeth, and general cleanliness are topics that arise for every pre-teen. For children with autism, simply just stating about what needs to happen may not be enough. Saying, “You need to go take a shower,” may not have the same effect as, “It’s really important to take showers everyday so that our bodies are clean and smell fresh. This way we feel comfortable and healthy, and other people around us do too.”

Using specifics such as this may help children with autism clue in to the “whys” of cleanliness. Additionally, providing visual schedules on the steps of showering, hand-washing, teeth brushing, dressing, etc., can help your child ensure that they are completing each step of the process, while still practicing more independence than if they had a parent or caregiver walking them through the routine.

Friendships/Social Skills

Fostering friendships and forming appropriate relationships with peers and adults at the time of adolescence can be extremely challenging. At this point in life, each child is starting to develop at different times, while interests and abilities are forming at different times and in unique ways. One highly effective strategy to help children with autism understand and participate in social situations are, the very aptly named, social stories.

Social stories can be custom tailored to each individual/situation, and break down any topic clearly using pictures and simple words. For example, a child who struggles with approaching peers in a group could benefit from a social story that focuses on what to say when approaching a group, what to do after saying, “Hi,” how to engage in a simple conversation, and how to say goodbye. These steps would be broken down using pictures (either real or found online), and simple sentences that match the child’s level of understanding. At the age of adolescence, it can be very powerful to have the child themselves be a part of creating the social story so they feel ownership and understand the content on a deeper level.

In addition to social stories, engaging in role-play with peers, adults, siblings, etc., can be very beneficial in helping a child with autism know what to expect in social situations. Practicing scenarios that are likely to happen in real life can help reduce or eliminate some of the anxiety and fear surrounding peers and socialization. For example, having a child practice what to do if someone says something unkind to them, or what to do when they are invited to a birthday party can set the child up for a successful interaction, rather than a situation where they might feel apprehensive or uncomfortable.

Functional Living Skills

By the time a child reaches the age of puberty, there are certain skills that we hope to see them engage in independently. This might be taking on simple chores around the house, making themselves a snack, or taking care of a pet. For all children, including those with autism, it is important that they have exposure to these types of functional living skills, as these will benefit them throughout their lives.

Using the aforementioned social stories, visual schedules, and explaining why we wipe the tables or feed the dog are all helpful strategies, but sometimes those are not enough. Using reinforcement strategies such as token charts/reinforcement systems can be a helpful tool to ensure that your child is participating in the functional activities of the home. For example, a child may be able to earn a star or token for each expected chore completed. Once all tokens have been earned, the child can have access to a highly preferred item such as a video game or special activity.

This token system should start with a few demands, which can be increased as the child shows success. This gives a tangible means of connecting the completion of functional/expected activities to earning a desired effect.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

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