Parent-teacher conferences serve as an important time in a child’s academic year. The teacher can provide updates and insight into your child’s progress within the classroom. In today’s schools, teacher’s conferences schedules are often jam-packed and you might only have fifteen precious minutes with the teacher to talk about your child. If you want to get the most out of this vital time with your child’s teacher, then a little prep is needed! Here are our top 10 tips for a successful parent conference:
10 Tips to Prepare for Conferences:
Ahead of the conference (in fact starting today!) ask the teacher to log behaviors or issues, so you have concrete examples about behaviors your child is engaging in that the teacher wants to discuss.
Make a questions list beforehand. Focus questions not only how the child is doing academically but also socially and behaviorally.
Invite your child to suggest if there is anything you should know before you go in or any concerns he or she would like to raise.
Ask your child what he or she likes about school and also what he or she does not like.
Ask the teacher how you can make sure your child reaches his or her potential? What extra activities would be recommended?
Ask the teacher who your child is friends with and how that aspect of school is going.
Ask the teacher who your child sits with at lunch and if he or she smiles a lot and looks happy.
Ask the teacher if she has any other concerns about your child besides academics.
If the teacher says anything negative about your child, without follow up, ask for a solution(s) and tell her you also will think of some.
Don’t be defensive, just ask good questions!
Remember that the teacher is there to help your child develop to the highest potential. It is important to take the advice that is provided as they have seen many children and can readily identify areas of strength and weakness. It is important to work as a team to make sure your child’s academic and social needs are met.
If your child’s teacher identifies concerns regarding your child; the best advice is to be proactive and garnish additional information instead of waiting. If there are possible concerns regarding the child’s attentional regulation, learning, and/or social-emotional functioning, it would be recommended to seek out a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation to help identify whether or not there is a specific diagnosis such as ADHD, a learning disability, anxiety, or Autism Spectrum Disorder. If and when a specific diagnosis is identified, individualized recommendations would be able to be created to help the child progress at the highest level possible.
If you are in the Chicago area and would like to discuss issues that arise from parent-teacher conferences or you have other concerns regarding your child, please contacts us at 1-866-309-4610 or fill in the contact form on this page.
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https://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/parent-teacher-conferences.jpg507337Dr. Greg Stasihttps://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngDr. Greg Stasi2019-09-26 20:00:332019-10-11 11:23:41Ten Tips for Parents for Successful Parent-Teacher Conferences
The school cafeteria hits the senses with a wide array of sensory experiences all at once. Some children, especially those with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), can find the lunchtime experience overwhelming because of some 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 and that can positively impact their entire school experience.
Location, location, location- Where a child sits in the cafeteria can greatly affect his or her behavior and sensory input. For example, a child who is easily visually distracted should be sat so that he or she is facing away from the entire room, which will help them to they can focus on their meal. For a child with sensitivity to smells, make sure they are sat as far away from the lunch line as possible.
Help the child advocate for themselves- Children with SPD can feel when they’re starting to get overwhelmed by whatever sensory stimulus is bothering them, but they can have a hard time explaining it to others. 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) they should tell their teacher that they need a break. This could be a movement break, or some quiet time in a hall or designated quiet space.
Give the child a fidget toy- 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.
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.
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 that 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.
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.
https://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Blog-Sensory-Cafeteria-FeaturedImage.png186183Kimberly Reidhttps://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngKimberly Reid2019-09-01 05:30:512019-09-19 12:20:056 Coping Strategies for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder in Their School Cafeteria
A school speech-language screening allows a speech-language pathologist to observe the child’s language understanding and use, production of speech sounds, vocal and nasal quality, and social language skills. The screening typically follows a checklist that a speech-language pathologist administers in approximately 15-20 minutes.
Most screening tools yield a “pass” or “did not pass”. If a child did not pass the screening, then a comprehensive full speech-language evaluation is recommended. Following this process, an intervention plan is created and proposed if needed.
A hearing screening is equally important and recommended upon entering kindergarten. The screening is typically a hand raising game an audiologist administers in approximately 10 minutes. If a child did not pass the screening, a comprehensive full hearing test is typically recommended. Normal hearing in children is important for normal language development. If a child has hearing problems, it can cause problems with their ability to learn, speak or understand language.
Speech and language skills are used in every part of learning and communicating with other children in school. In kindergarten, children learn the routine and structure of a typical school day and need to be able to follow directions, understand ideas learned in class, communicate well with their peers and teachers, practice early literacy skills and use appropriate social skills within the classroom and during play.
Screenings can be a great tool to determine if a child warrants a full speech-language or hearing evaluation. A screening alone is not diagnostically reliable and should only be used as a tool to decide if an evaluation is necessary.
https://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Blog-Speech-Language-Screen-FeaturedImage.png186183North Shore Pediatric Therapyhttps://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngNorth Shore Pediatric Therapy2017-09-12 05:30:012019-09-04 21:45:14Why School Speech-Language Screens are Important
Executive functioning skills are daily requirements for everyone, especially for school-age children who are required to be organized, pay attention, plan, and manage their time. Children with attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder (ADHD) often struggle with executive functioning tasks that can negatively impact their attitude towards school, academic achievement and performance, and overall emotional well-being.
Common experiences of children with ADHD include:
Difficulty remembering to submit or complete assignments
Poor organizational skills and planning
Avoidance of difficult or time consuming tasks
It is imperative that preparations are made to provide skills and systems that will assist children with ADHD to have a successful school year and to enjoy learning.
Some steps to prepare your child with ADHD for the school year include:
Create structure at home, teach and practice executive functioning skills.
Encourage your child to make a to-do list for each day and check off items at the end of the day (parents can also create a list of their own and model this behavior for their child).
Create a system that helps with organization of room and or study area, so items and books can be easily stored and located.
Teach and model accountability by checking in at the beginning and end of the day.
Allow appropriate natural consequences and implement logical consequences for behaviors.
Allow your child to advocate for themselves at home, so that they will be confident to advocate at school.
Work with your child to teach responsibility and develop skills.
Play games that reinforce executive functioning skills (i.e. Jenga, Max, Distraction, AnimaLogic, and No Stress Chess).
Maintain daily routine during days off and weekends.
Get a neuropsychological assessment, so that school-based accommodations can be put in place.
Overall, ensure that your child is learning to manage their time, is building good habits, and is completing tasks.
https://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Blog-ADHD-FeaturedImage.png186183Terry Ann Adjmulhttps://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngTerry Ann Adjmul2017-09-01 10:46:402019-07-31 18:50:08Back to School with ADHD
Attending your child’s IEP meeting can be a stressful and complex process. Whether you are new to the process or have previously attended IEP meetings, here are some helpful tips to make sure your child is getting appropriate services within the school setting:
Understand what your child’s educational disability is. There are 13 different disabilities with specific criteria that must be met. Ask your IEP team members to explain what criteria your child met in order to receive their educational disability.
Ask questions and state your feelings. It can be intimidating to sit around a table with educational professionals. Remember that school service providers have your child’s best interest in mind and want to ensure that you understand the paperwork involved in an IEP meeting. If you do not understand something — ask!
Make sure the school service provider explains the goals for the IEP. Goals should be written based on data, and should be measurable so that you can see whether your child is meeting expected growth targets.
Ask for (and understand) any accommodations listed on the IEP. There may be many accommodations provided to your child, but they should be applicable to what your child needs to succeed in the school setting.
Remember that an IEP is a fluid document. It can be changed and revised as your child develops and their needs change. You can request to have an IEP meeting at any time to address concerns.
Receiving the appropriate services and accommodations can increase your child’s opportunity for your child’s success at school. However, some children need additional support outside the school setting. Mental health professionals can provide services that help your child understand and develop skills to use in all areas of their life — at home, in school, and in the community.
This guest blog was written by Sandra Strassman-Alperstein.
As a special education attorney, I am often asked by parents of children with autism about their children’s legal rights at school. Fundamentally, children with autism are entitled to the same educational rights as other children with disabilities, namely FAPE (free appropriate public education). What constitutes “appropriate” education is at the crux of many special education disputes regarding students with autism as well as other students with disabilities.
Let’s take Michael, a boy with autism severe on the spectrum. Michael is 10 years old. He is not yet toilet trained. Michael demonstrates unsafe behaviors at school, such as self-injury, violence toward peers and staff, and elopement (running). Michael is rapidly becoming a danger to himself and others at school.
At Michael’s IEP meeting, the district recommends Michael’s current self-contained life skills classroom with a student/teacher ratio of 6:1. While many of the goals appear to be appropriate, Michael has made no progress this year. But we know Michael can learn in a 1:1 setting because he has made good progress with a private tutor at home. Also, the proposed IEP contains no goal for toileting skills, which are critical life skills, and no behavior intervention plan (BIP) to keep Michael and others safe when he displays unsafe behaviors.
What types of questions should Michael’s parents be asking at the IEP meeting? I’d suggest questions designed to elicit how the team proposes to educate Michael safely and appropriately, and how the proposed IEP is designed to accomplish this.
Let’s start with Michael’s present levels of performance in the IEP. Are they based on current data, and are they accurate reflections of Michael’s current abilities? How about his goals: do they address all areas of deficit? (For instance, the proposed IEP does not address Michael’s lack of toileting skills and unsafe behaviors – goals will need to be added to cover these areas.) Are the proposed goals reasonable given Michael’s present levels of performance? Are they SMART goals? (SMART goals, according to Pete Wright, are goals which are specific, measurable, use action words, are realistic and relevant, and are time-limited. (See http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/iep.goals.plan.htm#sthash.HUUaBQ3V.dpuf.) What about the proposed services – are they sufficient to allow Michael to achieve his IEP goals?
Now let’s examine Michael’s proposed placement (the 6:1 life skills classroom). Is this classroom appropriate for Michael, or does he need a smaller class setting with more adult supervision and structure? Michael clearly needs a BIP – can an appropriate plan be implemented in the proposed placement, or should the team be recommending a therapeutic day setting or even a residential placement for Michael?
Now take the case of Michelle, a 10 year old girl with what used to be called Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), a form of high-functioning autism (AS was eliminated as a separate diagnosis in the DSM-V that was recently released; however, it remains a useful descriptive term). Michelle can read and write, her grades are good, and she does not display unsafe behaviors in school. However, Michelle demonstrates social skills deficits that impact her in school: she sits alone at lunch, does not seek out friends or engage in reciprocal conversations, and often misreads social cues, causing conflicts with both peers and staff. Other students are starting to tease her and call her “weird.” This causes Michelle to withdraw socially, and sometimes to shut down and refuse to do her work in class. Michelle is beginning to develop a negative self-image, as she has been observed to say “I am dumb” or “I am weird” at least several times a day in school.
Because Michelle – like Michael – has autism, the team proposes the same self-contained life skills 6:1 classroom. However, it should be clear that while both children have autism, their needs are nothing alike.
Both Michael and Michelle have the right to be educated in the LRE (least restrictive environment). However, what that will look like is very different for each of these children. For Michael, it is very possible (even likely) that the self-contained public school classroom will not be restrictive enough; for Michelle, it is likely to be too restrictive. (The LRE is the setting in which the student has maximum access to typical peers, but in which the child can be appropriately educated. Thus, what constitutes the LRE will vary from child to child.)
So in Michelle’s case, the parents should be asking similar questions regarding present levels (are they accurate?), goals (do they cover all areas of deficit – such as social/emotional needs – and are they SMART goals?), services (are they sufficient to enable Michelle to meet her goals?), and placement (is the self-contained classroom the LRE for Michelle when she is able to progress in the general education setting?).
What these examples demonstrate is that different children have different needs, regardless of an autism diagnosis/label. The fact is, as the saying goes, if you’ve met one kid with autism, you’ve met one kid with autism.
For each child, parents should critically examine the key elements of the proposed IEP, namely:
Present levels of performance (are they based on data and do they accurately reflect the child’s current performance?);
Goals (are they SMART goals that address all areas of deficit?);
Services (are they sufficient and tailored to meet the child’s unique needs to enable the child to progress toward the goals?)
Placement (is it the LRE?)
Parents are their children’s best advocates. They are the experts on their child and have much to contribute to the IEP team. Hopefully this information will help parents fulfill their critical roles in their children’s education.
Sandra Strassman-Alperstein holds a B.A. in English from the University of Florida and a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School (cum laude 1990). More importantly, Sandy is the mom of four wonderful kids, three of whom have received special education services in the public school setting via IEPs and 504s. Sandy has been practicing special education law & advocacy for the past 15 years and is an active volunteer on the national, state, and local levels. Sandy’s website is http://www.spedlaw4kids.com.
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, however, 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
https://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Blog-IEP-Meetings-FeaturedImage.png186183Julie Hrdlickahttps://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngJulie Hrdlicka2017-04-17 14:36:332019-04-10 12:34:04IEP Meetings From a Mom's Perspective
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.
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:
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.
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.
Break down new activities as much as possible. Teach one skill at a time and provide multiple modes of instruction.
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.
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.
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.
Take extra care to maintain a positive environment. Emphasize the importance of sportsmanship and supportive language.
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.
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!
https://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Blog-Sensory-Processing-Disorder-Gym-FeaturedImage.png186183Shannon Phelanhttps://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngShannon Phelan2017-02-22 05:30:122019-09-06 19:20:389 Ways to Make Gym Class Successful for a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder
Does your child feel overworked in school? School-related stress is nothing new, but it is now happening to even younger students. With the increased importance of testing on students, teachers, and schools- children are facing more stress in school than parents may have experienced when they were younger.
Here are some helpful tips for how to help your child if they are overworked in school:
Don’t over-schedule kids
Although it is important to have children in activities outside of school like sports or clubs, don’t schedule so much that they are not able to do their homework. If you only have an hour scheduled for homework because they have to run to their art class, then swimming class and they only have time for a quick dinner and then bed, a child may feel rushed or pressured to get everything done. In addition, ask your child what works for them and let them have some control over their schedule. Some kids like to get to work as soon as they get home, while others need a break after school.
Praise effort, not grades
Everyone wants their child to succeed and most importantly everyone wants their child to feel successful and proud of themselves. In some children, that may mean that they bring home straight A’s every quarter or semester, but in some children that may look different. Emphasizing that a child needs a certain grade can lead to them feeling stressed and anxious. The truth is that some students may not be an A student. Praise effort and improvements, rather than A’s. Also, don’t ignore those classes like art or music.
If a child is really struggling in math, but excels in the fine arts, praise them for that specific talent rather than ignoring those “easy” classes. In addition to praising effort, it is important to try and limit consequences for lower grades. If a child studied and put forth effort, but came home with a lower grade than what was expected, don’t punish them- talk about it and how they could have studied or completed the work differently.
What not to say: “7th grade is the most important” “Junior year is the most important” “you need this grade in order to do this…”
When adults make these statements to children, they often hope it will motivate them to study longer or focus more, but it can often do the opposite. If a child hears these statements regularly, it can cause feelings of anxiety. If a child is anxious, they are less likely to be able to study and focus efficiently. It may be more helpful to show specific examples of how certain topics can be used in real life situations. This shows that the information they learn is important, but it alleviates the pressure that if they don’t master the topic, they won’t be successful.
Teach kids effective study habits, and how to balance it.
Sometimes it is not how much you study, but how you do it. Help kids learn good study habits like taking breaks, not cramming for tests, healthy sleep habits, and being organized. Ask your children what works for them. Some people need absolute silence, while some enjoy music in the background. Don’t force a habit on a child that may not work for them. Teaching children these skills will not only help them in school, but as a future employee as well.
Finding a work-life balance is something that a lot of parents and adults struggle with. It is important to model a healthy balance of work and fun to your children, so they can learn how to achieve that balance.
https://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Blog-Overworked-in-School-FeaturedImage.png186183Amy Fontanahttps://nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngAmy Fontana2017-02-08 05:30:002017-02-09 15:03:50How to Help Your Child Who Feels Overworked in School
Occupational therapists are skilled in assessing how a child’s sensory processing abilities, fine motor skills, visual motor skills and gross motor skills impact performance and function in daily life including self-care, play and academics. Proficient skills in these areas are imperative for children to be successful in the classroom environment.
Sensory processing skills support a child’s ability to learn. A child who is unable to process environmental stimuli effectively and efficiently will be unavailable to learn. Children with sensory processing dysfunction may have difficulty sitting still for an extended period of time in their desks or during circle time, they may be unable to pay attention when others around them are talking or they may have difficulty standing in line without touching, or hanging on a friend in front of them. These behaviors are a result of poor processing of the vestibular, auditory and proprioceptive systems, respectively.
Efficient fine motor skills are necessary to complete academic work. From writing to cutting with scissors and keyboarding to making crafts, fluid fine motor skills help children complete classroom activities and homework.
Efficient visual motor skills provide a foundation for writing and copying from the board as well as completing math work.
Efficient gross motor skills are important within the school environment for moving safely throughout the school and classroom, engaging with peers on the playground or during gym, and sustaining appropriate posture while sitting at a desk to complete work.
When a child struggles in any of these areas, it may not always be obvious. Oftentimes, sensory processing difficulties go unnoticed for many years and the child is left with academic or behavioral challenges. Therefore, occupational therapy screens are essential for schools. An occupational therapist’s knowledge of child development, and its impact on daily functioning, can help identify children who would benefit from therapy services.
The screens can also be used as a preventative measure to ensure that a child’s development is on track and the child will have the foundational skills necessary to be available to learn. Occupational therapy screens also allow the opportunity for OTs to educate and collaborate with teachers and educators to provide suggestions that they can share with families and use in the classroom.