neuropsychological testing at north shore pediatric therapy

Diagnosing Your Child on the Autism Spectrum: Fact or Fiction?

Many times parents fear an autism diagnosis because they do not want a stigma for their child. However, it is important to understand that an appropriate diagnosis is the first piece of the puzzle. For those brave souls who don’t stop until they have the correct answer, the payoff is worth the effort and pain. A good diagnosis and evaluation should serve as a means of identifying appropriate and practical recommendations as well as a basis for progress monitoring from the intervention. At North Shore Pediatric Therapy’s Neuropsychological Center in Illinois, we utilize clinical testing to help identify the most appropriate diagnosis.

The Autism Testing Process at NSPT-Diagnosing Your Child:

Neuropsychological testing is an empirically supported way of assessing a child’s cognitive, academic, and social-neuropsychological testing at north shore pediatric therapyemotional functioning. The evaluation occurs over three days with an intake session, the actual testing day, and the feedback session.

  • Intake: The intake session is when the parents and child attend a formal meeting to discuss concerns. It is important that child attends the session as the neuropsychologist would want to attain some basic information regarding the child’s verbal functioning, social skills, and attentional regulation. Parents understandably do not want to speak in front of their child about concerns they have. We understand that and will ensure our best that the child is in a separate room when parents are talking about specific concerns.
  • Testing: The testing session consists of ascertaining information from a variety of resources including parents, teachers, outside practitioners (any therapist working with the child or family), behavioral observations, as well as the child’s performance on a variety of assessment measures. Testing is intensive and lasts upwards of four to five hours. The focus is to provide quantified information regarding the child’s functioning across a variety of domains and also to look for consistent patterns across performance.
  • Feedback: The feedback session is the most important aspect of the evaluation. This is the meeting in which the parents are provided information regarding the diagnosis that is given as well as what the next steps are to ensure that the child is able to progress to his or her potential. Read here for more on what to expect after neuropsychological testing.
  • Follow-up: The next step is for the neurologist to re-evaluate the child in six month’s to one years time (depending on the intervention that was prescribed) in order to monitor progress the interventions and to help progress monitor if additional supports or services are needed.

Be a Smart Detective When Seeking an Autism Diagnosis for Your Child:

For those parents with the courage to dive into discovering the diagnosis behind your child’s challenges, I say kudos to you! Those parents are the real child-advocates. Kick start your child’s success with a deep dive into your child’s diagnosis by seeking a neuropsychologist. I, Dr. Greg Stasi along with my colleague Dr. Amy Wolok provide in depth Autism Spectrum testing at our Neuropsychology Center in Chicago, IL. Our Center works alongside the many other therapists at North Shore Pediatric Therapy’s Glenview, Highland Park, Bucktown, Evanston and Lincolnwood Clinics to provide a comprehensive team all working together to help your child reach his or her potential. The neuropsychological evaluation is designed to help identify what specific strengths and weaknesses a child is exhibiting which leads to the best diagnosis and most importantly the most efficacious intervention.

Dyslexia

Identifying Dyslexia: Will My Child Grow Out of This?

Reading problems tend to be pretty common, so it’s interesting to learn that Dyslexia is often missed! Although care must be taken before jumping into an evaluation and diagnosis, reading difficulties may not be temporary (as we often hope they are). Children may not grow out of these struggles, and in fact, these difficulties will continue to persist until something is done! Missing the warning signs can lead from the 5 year-old who can’t quite learn her letters to the 6 year-old who can’t match sounds to letters to the 13 year-old who shies away from reading aloud in class…(Overcoming Dyslexia, 2003)

Here is where you come in! Parents, we need your feedback and detective skills.

When Dyslexia is suspected, here are some clues to look for:Dyslexia

Signs of Dyslexia in the Preschool Years:

  • Difficulty with common nursery rhymes like “Humpty Dumpty”
  • Doesn’t know the letters in his own name
  • Mispronounces words and persistent baby talk
  • Difficulty learning and remembering names of letters

Signs of Dyslexia in Kindergarten- 1st Grade:

  • Unable to understand that words come apart : (i.e. Cowboy becomes Cow-boy)
  • Difficulty linking sounds with letters : b makes a “ba” sound
  • Difficulty reading common one syllable words: “cat, bat, hop”
  • Parent or siblings have a history of reading difficulties
  • Avoids reading time or outwardly states that reading is hard

Signs of Dyslexia in 2nd Grade & Up:

  • Mispronounces words that are complicated or unfamiliar
  • Leaves out parts of words or confusing parts : amulium instead of aluminum
  • Difficulty finding words and confusing words that sound alike: tornado & volcano
  • Difficulty remembering phone numbers, names, dates, lists
  • Lots of “um’s” and pauses while speaking
  • Taking out/missing parts of words when reading
  • Extreme difficulty of learning a foreign language
  • Difficulty with spelling and word problems

Strengths of children with Dyslexia (hint, hint: they have lots of them!)

  • A great imagination
  • Good at building models
  • Higher maturity level
  • A great listening vocabulary
  • Able to understand well what is read TO him
  • Ability to understand & read high level words in areas of extreme interest (i.e. he loves dinosaurs and can a read a highly sophisticated book on the topic – due to practicing and seeing the words multiple times)

A diagnosis can come at any point in a person’s life from pre-school through adulthood! Don’t be afraid to reach out to your child’s teacher or therapist if you suspect Dyslexia. Help is only an evaluation away!

P.S. check out: Overcoming Dyselexia by Dr. Sally Shaywitz…great read!

North Shore Pediatric Therapy offers the Orton Gillingham reading program to help children with Dyslexia break the reading code. Read here about the benefits of Orton Gillingham reading therapy.

 

memory and adhd

Wait… What Did You Say? Memory in the ADHD Student

Making memories is an important part of being human, and our beloved camera phones seem to make the process that much easier! However… our cameras aren’t the only ones doing the work. What about when you have to remember that long 10 digit phone… oh wait… we don’t have to do that anymore either! I suppose a modern day challenge would be to remember all those tedious passwords we have to keep!

But that’s neither here nor there!

Our awesome brains deserve a little credit, too, actually a lot of credit for that (grey) matter (just a little brain joke for ya!)

While memory is a challenge for all of us, it can be an exceptional challenge for a student with ADHD. In order to understand this, we will look at the 3 basic stages of memory.

Three basic stages of memory:

Encoding: Information enters into our memory systemmemory and adhd

Storage:

  • Short-term memory (STM) : 20-30 Seconds: Information that is transferred from the STM enters into the HIPPOCAMPUS! When we repeat information over and over again it’s like sending it through the hippocampus several times!
  • Long-term memory (LTM): Can last a lifetime

Retrieval:

  • How you store depends on how you get those memories back OUT
  • Organization is key here (i.e. using the alphabet to categorize things or remembering numbers in chunks)

Something happens around you that you can see, hear and/or touch. This sensation lingers in our short-term (working) memory for about 20-30 seconds. For example, when you are having a conversation with someone and they are talking, you may be thinking of what to say next (thanks to your working memory).

Kids use their working memory all day in the classroom to follow instructions, remember where they need to be, and to keep track of their belongings and assignments (just to name a few). Kiddos with ADHD tend to struggle more with these tasks, which can make learning difficult, specifically reading comprehension.

Let’s say a teacher says, “Go to your desk, grab your book and a pencil, go the center, and finish the worksheet.” That can be a lot to remember for a child who has a deficit in this area and can be misinterpreted as purely inattention.

“How can you plan ahead if you don’t use working memory to keep your goal in mind, resist distractions and inhibit impulsive choices?” says Matthew Cruger, PhD, neuropsychologist with the Learning and Diagnostics Center at the Child Mind Institute in New York.

Here are 4 ways to help teach ways to integrate learning for kids with ADHD:

  • Teaching mnemonic devices: “Never Eat Soggy Waffles” : North, East, South,West
  • Creating visuals
  • Use songs or a melody to learn concepts
  • Ask follow-up questions

Sometimes it can be hard to tell whether a child has a memory deficit or if it is a by-product of ADHD or a Learning Disorder. Receiving formal testing can be beneficial to tease them apart or better identify how they influence one another.

ADHD accommodations for adults in the workplace

ADHD Accommodations for Adults In The Workplace

If you are a parent of a child with ADHD, you may be familiar with some of the classroom accommodations that are typically recommended. These may include sitting in the front of the class and getting a hard copy of the notes, for example.

These accommodations prove to be beneficial… so what about when the classroom days are over and you are supposed to rely on yourself to stay productive and organized in the workplace?

Whether you are an adult diagnosed with ADHD or think you may have ADHD, here are some workplace accommodations to consider:

  1. Take breaks: go for a walk or sit outside with some coffee or tea.ADHD accommodations for adults in the workplace
  2. Avoid working in a cubicle, if possible, to avoid distractions.
  3. If you don’t have a door to close, wear ear plugs during times you need to focus.
  4. If your boss does not set a deadline for you, set your own!
  5. Break large projects into smaller tasks.
  6. Keep a paper trail!
  7. If a co-worker requests something from you, have them send it in an email.
  8. Keep a bulletin or dry erase board nearby and write down any important dates, notes, or ideas right after you hear them and go back and add them to a calendar or notebook.
  9. When you are given an assignment, repeat it back in your own words to make sure you understand (and remember!) all parts.

These are accommodations you can implement yourself. If you think you might need something a little more concrete, you do have the choice of disclosing your ADHD diagnosis to your employer and working with them to help you be even more successful!

These awesome tips were derived from the book, 10 Simple Solutions to Adult ADHD by Stephanie Moulton Sarkis, PhD. It is a great book that has more tips and tricks to stay organized and accomplish your goals!

smart strategies to build your childs executive functioning skills

10 Smart Strategies to Foster Your Child’s Executive Functioning Skills

Executive Functions (EF) refers to our self-regulatory behaviors needed to guide our behaviors to follow rules and reach our goals.

Typically in children, there are 3 basic components of Executive Functioning:smart strategies to build your childs executive functioning skills

  1. Working Memory – being able to hold information in their mind and use it (organizing, planning)
  2. Inhibitory Control – being able to control (stop, pause) thoughts and impulses while being able to resist distractions, temptations, and habits, while also thinking before acting
  3. Cognitive Flexibility – being able to switch gears and adjust to new rules, demands, and perspectives

The simple of act of ‘turn-taking’ addresses all of these components of EF. Help your child stop what he is doing and let another child take control (inhibitory control) – when it is his turn again, he needs to remember what he was supposed to do (working memory) – initiate play again and in the instance of a new child joining the group and the rules changing, help him adjust again (cognitive flexibility).

Research has shown that early childhood experiences build the foundation for fostering productive members of society!

Here are 10 activities to help your child blossom his Executive Functioning (EF) skills!

  1. Peek-a-boo: This challenges baby to remember who is hiding (working memory) and teaches self-control in waiting for the adult to pop back up!
  2. Pat-a-cake: Predictable rhyming develops working memory as he gains familiarity with the rhyme and inhibiting (pausing) his anticipatory reactions
  3. Freeze dance: This requires active inhibition.
  4. Narrate your childs’ play: This helps your child understand how language is connected to actions and how asking questions about what is next can help him to plan his next move (planning and organizing)!
  5. UNO: Switching between matching colors versus numbers helps to practice cognitive flexibility.
  6. Cooking: Waiting for instructions (inhibition), trying to remember the directions (working memory) and measuring and counting steps (sustained-attention) all help to develop EF skills.
  7. Sports: Rule following, and quick decision making (cognitive flexibility) make this a great EF skill building activity.
  8. Music, singing & dance: Holding music/choreography in mind (working memory) develops EF skills.
  9. Puzzles: This develops EF skills for all ages by encouraging thinking about shapes and colors needed (planning & organizing) to complete the puzzle.
  10. Storytelling & imaginative play: Older children may naturally use ordinary objects as something creative (i.e. using a block as a car)- (Cognitive flexibility).

Resources: developingchild.harvard.edu

what percentage of our brain do we use

What Percentage Of Our Brains Do We Really Use?

You may have recently seen (or more likely heard) the debonair voice of Morgan Freeman in a movie trailer for Lucy starring Scarlett Johansson. In the trailer, you hear him state the statistic that we, as humans, only use 10 % of our brain’s capacity. This seems a shocking statistic that makes you wonder… is this for real?

Well.

No matter how convincing that buttery voice may be, you can’t believe everything he says! The origins of this popularwhat percentage of our brain do we use myth is unknown, but it is thought to be traced back to the Einstein era. “Though an alluring idea, the “10 percent myth” is so wrong it is almost laughable”, says neurologist Barry Gordon at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.

That is neither here nor there… What IS important is knowing how powerful our brain is and that we actually use most of our brain all the time! Our brain actually uses up 20% of our body’s energy, and in kids, it uses up 50% of their energy! John Henley from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota states that “Evidence would show over a day you use 100 percent of the brain.”

Without even thinking about it, at this very moment you are doing the following with your brain:

  • Blinking (thanks your motor cortex)
  • Breathing (thanks to your brainstem)
  • Reading this blog (using your occipital lobe AKA eye sight AND your frontal lobe for thinking and reasoning)
  • Moving the mouse around (using your cerebellum).

That’s just to name a few… Even the most mundane tasks (like sleeping) can stir up quite a lightning storm in the ol’ noggin’. So when you hear Mr. Freeman state that overly used myth about only using 10% of your brain (in his elegant way), don’t let that voice forget you know the truth! That’s not to say we can’t get swept up in the alluring cinematic idea of being a super-human, right?!

social IQ

Tips to Raise Your Child’s Social IQ

 

 

Social IQ is a concept developed around the idea of social skills and how well-developed they are in social settings. So much awareness is involved in developing social skills: Tone of voice, facial expressions, eye contact, gestures, and personal space (just to name a few). It is amazing we learn most of them through observation alone! Where is the class that teaches us how to share, compliment, join a group, manage conflict, and express and understand feelings!?
For some kids, social skills develop naturally and without much emphasis, but for others, these can be daunting skills to tackle. With the new school year upon us, the classroom is a breeding ground for social mishaps and social victories.

If you notice your child struggles in social situations, here are some things you can do to help raise his Social IQ:

  • Get to know your child’s strengths and weaknesses: Is he flexible with his friends or does he tend to be a bit bossy?
  • Discuss with them the importance of friendships and what he thinks it means to be a ‘good friend’.
  • Set realistic social goals with your child (i.e. Lilly will congratulate two classmates if they win in a game or Johnny will introduce himself to a new classmate and ask to join in on an activity at recess.).
  • Involve teachers and counselors to help reinforce and observe goals.
  • Help your child talk about and identify feelings, facial expressions, and gestures.
  • Practice conflict management: develop a plan that’s easy to remember in ‘heated’ moments.
  • Take a deep breath, count to 3, and use “ I feel ______ when _________”.
  • Practice skills at home (i.e. sharing, complimenting, asking questions, waiting her turn to talk) and be a good role model!
  • Join a social skills group.
  • Social skills go far beyond the examples mentioned here, so this can be a great opportunity to not only learn new skills, but practice them with their peers in a structured setting.

Click here for a list of apps to help teach social skills.

diabetes

Neuropsychological Aspects of Diabetes

 

 

 

Diabetes is an autoimmune disorder associated with an inability of the affected person’s/child’s pancreas to secrete insulin. There are two types of diabetes (type I and type II). Read on to understand the neuropsychological aspects of Diabetes.

Type I Diabetes:

Type I diabetes is considered to be insulin dependent in which the child must take insulin injections, as there is a complete inability for the body to produce insulin. Type I Diabetes is associated with unusual thirst, excessive urination, rapid unexplained weight loss, and overwhelming fatigue. This is one of the most prevalent chronic childhood diseases with approximately 29,000 new cases diagnosed each year. The peak incidence rate of type diabetes is between 10 and 14 years of age.

Type II Diabetes:

Type II diabetes is considered to be non-insulin dependent and is rarely signaled by a clinically obvious medical crisis. Type II is most common in individuals who are over forty years old and whose body mass index is greater than 25 (considered overweight). This is a fairly common condition in that there are approximately 600,000 new cases identified each year.

Neuropsychological Aspects of Diabetes:

Research has indicated that age of onset of diabetes is a critical factor in secondary cognitive impact. What this means is that children who have been diagnosed with diabetes in the first four to six years of age are more prone to significantly lower cognitive scores. This is also found to be true with concerns with attentional regulation. In general, children and adolescents with a diagnosis of diabetes are not more prone for a diagnosis of ADHD; however, if the child had been diagnosed with diabetes early in life, they are more likely to exhibit symptoms of ADHD.

Children and adolescents with late onset diagnosis of diabetes are more prone to concerns with verbal cognitive functioning and academic achievement in comparison to a control group of non-diabetic children and adolescents.
Overall, diabetes can be a pretty well-controlled disorder. If children and adolescents control their insulin levels, they tend to not demonstrate more neurocognitive concerns than their non-diabetic peers.

Click here to learn more about our Neuropsychology Diagnostic and Testing Center!

mental illness in children

The Rise of Mental Illness in Children

 

 

The Journal of Pediatrics published a recent article that childhood developmental conditions including ADHD and Autism are increasing at a rate of 16% from 2001 to 2011 (Read a review of this article on the CNN blog, The Chart, here). Although this might sound astounding and like this should be an area of concern, the researchers have posited that this actually might be a positive.

In all likelihood, these rates were probably the same. What we have now is an increased awareness of a variety of developmental disabilities as well as increased acceptance of such conditions. Having increased acceptance is extremely positive in that now we are able to provide support and services to help these children that otherwise would not be available.

Here are some tips for parents for children who might have a neurodevelopmental condition like ADHD or Autism:

  1. Seek out a good, comprehensive evaluation in order to first help identify the specific condition that the child might present with.
  2. Identify your treatment team. Your team will consist of multiple individuals including teachers, therapists, administration, and special education teachers. Make sure the team is all on the same page and aware of the specifics that the child presents with.
  3. Seek out resources and information to help support you and your family. There are multiple, empirically supported organizations that provide parents and family members with not only support but also resources to help the child out.

Although the rates of a variety of neurodevelopmental conditions are on the rise, it is likely that these conditions have always been as prevalent as they are today. The social stigma associated with the conditions is no longer as strong, and these children are now able to receive specific services and interventions that would be beneficial for them.




extra-curricular success for children with special needs

Ensure Extra-Curricular Success for Children with Special Needs

Often parents of children with special needs are worried and fearful about the ability of their child to succeed in extra-curricular activities such as sports, boy scouts, dance, art class, etc. Parents often fear the worst and are afraid of how the child will behave or act in such circumstances.  I would recommend that parents utilize several tips in order to help ensure success with each out-of-school activity, as these activities have many proven benefits for a child’s self-esteem.

Tips for Working with Coaches to Ensure Success for Children with Special Needs in Extra-Curricular Activities:

1. Be frank with the coach or director of the activity. Inform him or her about the child’s concerns. These are often individuals who volunteer to help children and more times than naught have the child’s best interest in mind.

2. Let the individual know what types of behaviors the child has exhibited in the past. What happened in school when parents were away, etc?

3. Create a list of accommodations that have proven to be beneficial for the child. Let the coach or instructor in on some of the modifications that have been helpful in the academic setting, as he may be able to apply the modification to the activity setting.

4. Be present, or within immediate reach, for the first few sessions.

5. Have the child go and see the building and room will the activity will occur. If possible, meet the instructor to form a relationship in advance.

Ultimately the main goal of after school activities is to increase socialization while teaching a skill, activity, or sport. The above tips should help provide some strategies to ensure the maximum success for children who have special needs in such situations.