North Shore Pediatric Therapy wishes you a Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and Merry Christmas!

13 Holiday Crafts for Fine Motor Development

North Shore Pediatric Therapy wishes you a Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and Merry Christmas!We’re into the holiday season with Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa just three weeks away, so why not get your children into the spirit by getting them involved in prepping the decorations? Here are 13 simple craft ideas that will entertain, add some cheer to your home and also promote your child’s fine motor development:

13 Holiday Crafts to Promote Fine Motor Skills

  1. String beads onto pipe cleaners and shape them into various holiday symbols such as candy canes, dreidels or wreaths.
  2. Fold up pieces of paper and cut out snowflake designs.
  3. Make a snowman picture by pulling apart cotton ball pieces and gluing them onto paper. You could also draw a snowman on the paper and have your child carefully secure marshmallows over the lines.
  4. Create your favorite holiday image using pony beads and elastic cord. You can find free instructions for various patterns online so there are plenty of options for this one!
  5. Paint the ends of an acorn using a thin paintbrush. You can also use glue instead and cover with glitter.
  6. Build a Christmas tree, menorah, or Kinara using popsicle sticks and glue. Decorate each stick however you would like using glitter, markers, stamps, sequins, crumpled tissue paper, paint, ribbon, etc.
  7. Create a window cling. This can be done using a craft kit or by following simple do-it-yourself instructions online. Your child can use a template as a guide or make an original design of his own.
  8. Decorate holiday cookies using cookie cutters, frosting, sprinkles, or other small pieces of candy. Be sure to have your child help with baking preparation too for extra strengthening and skill development while stirring, scooping, and rolling out the dough!
  9. Similar to baking cookies, you can use play dough to work on many of the same fine motor skills. Use plastic play utensils and scissors to cut playdough apart, roll out large pieces using a rolling pin or the palm of your hand, and use fingers to roll small pieces of play dough into balls. Use playdough stamps and other molds to create your favorite holiday symbols. For creations that you and your child are especially proud of, bake them in the oven for a few minutes to harden the dough and preserve the shape. Then they go on display or even on your tree!
  10. Make your own ornaments. The options are endless with this one but some ideas are to decorate ornament balls, use cardboard cut-outs, or glue together felt pieces. Your child may also enjoy turning their baked playdough into a holiday ornament!
  11. Build a gingerbread house. This is a great activity for siblings to work on together as it allows for plenty of creativity and a variety of challenges for different skill levels.
  12. Create a dreidel gift box using a printable template.
  13. Make a holiday count-down chain. Cut out strips of construction paper and secure them into loops that link together. Make this a fun family activity by hanging the chain in a common area of your home and removing one link daily as the holiday approaches!

Click here for tips on the perfect holiday gift for motor development!

 

 

Picky Eater’s Guide to Thanksgiving

Ahhh, Thanksgiving. For some kids, it’s their favorite meal that comes just once a year! For others, they may dread the sticky mashed potatoes that get plopped on their plate or the smell of Aunt Cathy’s green bean casserole. Preparing your picky eater for this time of year might help you avoid the epic battle you fear is coming!

Here are 5 tips to help this time of year be fun and festive, not frustrating and frightful for a picky eater:

  1. Exposure!- Don’t let the Thanksgiving meal be the first time your picky eater sees all the new foods. Thanksgiving foods are not commonly seen throughout the year and can add stress to an already overwhelming situation. In the weeks leading up to the big meal, try to incorporate one or two Thanksgiving-type foods a week into your family meals or snack time. Even if they don’t want to eat it, they can touch it, smell it, play with it, and talk about it!
  2. Encourage your child to be your sous chef– Incorporating your picky eater into the cooking and creating of meals gives them a varied sensory experience, even if it’s a food they’ve never had (or have tried and disliked). This way, they get to see and feel the ingredients, use spoons and mixers to combine it all, and smell the final product, and feel accomplished for helping!
  3. Let your child choose something to make- Allowing your child to choose a menu item guarantees they will have something they like! Macaroni and cheese, mozzarella stick appetizers, chocolate chip cookies, or homemade rolls may be some favorites.
  4. Bring sauce!- Sauces and dressings can be the key to kids eating new or less-preferred foods. Even if you’re not hosting, bring it with you. If they love barbecue sauce, put a small bowl next to their plate and let them add it to whatever they want!
  5. When in doubt…bring foods they like– If you’re going to someone’s house where you have little to no control as to what is served, you can always bring a few healthy foods you know your child likes. You can re-heat it when the other food is served, and explain to the host that your kiddo doesn’t even eat your cooking to avoid any offense. Just prepare for all of the other kids to be jealous!

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NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Deerfield, 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!

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Spooktacular Speech and Language Activities

The costume is picked and the decorations are up. Halloween is just around the corner, and it’s time to use this fun season to work on speech and language! Use the ideas below to incorporate speech and language skills into Halloween activities.

Halloween Speech and Language Activities:

Create a picture scene                             

Use stickers or window decals to create a fun picture scene. Have your child follow directions (‘put the pumpkin inSpooktacular Speech and Language Activities front of the wagon’), make up a fun story, talk about what people are doing in the scene, and label and describe objects. The opportunities for speech and language targets are endless using picture scenes!

Paint a pumpkin

Grab a pumpkin and some paint, and let your imagination do the rest! Once your child has decided what to paint, use describing words to talk about the creation. Discuss the steps in painting the pumpkin using words such as first, next, then, and last. Then add the pumpkin to your Halloween decoration collection!

Make a map

Draw a map of your neighborhood or your trick-or-treat trail. Have your child add in details such as houses along the way, Halloween decorations, and street names. Maybe your child can even lead the trick-or-treat brigade!

Ask Twenty Questions

Play Halloween-themed 20 questions. This activity targets vocabulary, answering questions, formulating questions, describing, and critical thinking.

Complete a craft

Kids love arts and crafts! Make a scarecrow, pumpkin, ghost, or bat. Target following directions, describing, and even comparing multiple craft projects (‘My bat has smaller wings that yours’).

Bake a treat

Whip up some delicious Halloween treats! Find a recipe, make a grocery list, go shopping together, and follow the steps in the recipe. This activity incorporates vocabulary, sequencing, and following directions.

Let these activities guide speech and language in fall time fun! If you are concerned with your child’s speech and language development, seek the help of a speech language pathologist.


NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanston, Deerfield, LincolnwoodGlenview, 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!

MORE Tips To Help Your Child with Autism Enjoy Halloween

Halloween is fun and exciting holiday for many children. It gives the opportunity to dress up in their favorite costumes and get a lot of candy. While these traditions seem easy and effortless for most children, for a child with autism it may not be so easy. With the proper preparation Halloween can be a very fun holiday for any child with autism and below are a few steps on how to make Halloween an enjoyable experience.

Help Your Child With Autism Have a Happy Halloween With These Tips:

  • Let you child pick out his costume so you know it is something he will want to wear.MORE Tips To Help Your Child Enjoy Haloween
  • Make sure your child is able to wear the costume around the house prior to going trick-or-treating. This will allow him to get used to how the costume feels and allow you to make any necessary adjustments to the costume to make it more comfortable for your child.
  • If you are planning on trick-or-treating, take walks around your neighborhood or wherever you plan on going in the weeks leading up to Halloween. Also, you may want to practice walking up to the doors of people you know and ringing the doorbell.
  • Read your child social stories about Halloween traditions and trick-or-treating.
  • Make a schedule of the events that will take place the night of Halloween. Show this schedule to your child frequently so they know what is coming next. You could even make a map of each house you will be going to and they can cross off each house they go to.
  • If your child has limited verbal skills, make a picture they can hold up that says trick-or-treat, or if possible have a sibling do all of the talking.

Click here for more simple tips to prepare your child with autism for Halloween.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanston, Deerfield, LincolnwoodGlenview, 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!

Halloween and Autism

Simple Tips To Prepare Your Child with Autism for Halloween

 

It’s that time of year again: the leaves are changing, the weather is getting cooler, and children and parents alike are beginning to feverously plan Halloween activities and costumes. While this may be an exciting experience for most families, it can be a difficult and anxiety-provoking experience for families with children with autism.  Children with autism may interpret and react differently to Halloween festivities and costumes, which can be an overwhelming experience. However, this doesn’t mean that children need to sit on the sidelines and avoid Halloween activities altogether. With the following tips, parents and their children with autism can have a stress-free and enjoyable Halloween.

Costumes

Costumes are a quintessential part of Halloween. It is important to remember that costumes are possible for your Simple Tips to Prepare Your Child with Autism for Halloweenchild with autism, but should be safe and comfortable for him or her to wear. This is especially important if your child has sensory difficulties. Take into consideration how the fabric and the fit of the costume will affect your child: Is it a fabric the child is used to wearing? Is the fit too tight or too loose? A great way to decide if a costume works is by practicing wearing the costume around the house. This allows your child to become acclimated to the costume, and lets you know whether or not the child will be able to tolerate wearing the costume for extended periods of time. With practice and knowledge that a costume works, you can avoid meltdowns and last-minute costume changes on Halloween.

Social Cues

It is not everyday that we ask our children to walk up to a stranger’s house and socially engage with the stranger for candy. This is a break in typical social rules that children normally follow. This break in rules may be difficult for a child with a rigid understanding of rules and expectations of the world. One way to help your child overcome this change in rules is through setting a schedule and script that your child can follow for trick-or-treating. For example, the script and schedule may look like the following:

  1. Ring doorbell
  2. When an adult opens the door, say “Trick or Treat”
  3. Allow the adult to put candy in your candy bag
  4. Say “Thank you” and walk away from the house

This script and schedule allows your child to understand the expectations and rules of Halloween while also creating an easy timeline that they can follow and refer back to with parents. Similarly, you may want to practice this script with your child prior to Halloween at your own household. The child can put on his or her costume, and practice ringing the doorbell and asking for candy to simulate trick-or-treating on Halloween.

Know your Child

Even with extensive preparation, Halloween can be an overwhelming and tiring experience. Know and recognize when your child has had enough and is ready to call it quits for the evening. The point of Halloween is for your child to have an enjoyable time, whether that lasts 30 minutes or 2 hours. Halloween is all about maximizing your child’s fun while spending time together as a family.

With the right knowledge and planning, families with children with autism can have a successful and happy Halloween!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanston, Deerfield, LincolnwoodGlenview, 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!

How to Choose a Halloween Costume for a Child With Sensory Processing Disorder

Halloween is a time for kids to dress up in fun costumes, however, this may be very uncomfortable for kids with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Kids with SPD may find certain clothing uncomfortable due to tactile sensitivities. This may range from kid-to-kid; some kids may prefer to wear loose fitted clothing, some may prefer to wear clothes that are tight, and some kids may prefer to wear soft clothing. It is best to explore which type of clothing your child prefers prior to picking out a Halloween costume. Halloween

Once you know which type of clothing best suits your child, you can then begin to find what Halloween costume will be most comfortable for them to wear.

Here are some recommendations to make your search for a Halloween costume easier:

  • Allow your child to be a part of the process of choosing a Halloween costume and try to incorporate their favorite things.
  • Never force your child to wear a costume.
  • It may be helpful to find costumes that are seamless and do not have tags.
  • Wash the costume prior to your child wearing it.
  • Allow your child to wear their costume prior to Halloween.
  • Masks and face paint may be uncomfortable for a child with SPD. It will be helpful to practice wearing a mask or putting on face paint prior to Halloween to see if your child can tolerate the feeling of having it on his or her face. If your child decides to wear a mask, allow them to remove it if needed. Also, if your child decides to wear face paint, make sure to bring facial wipes in case you need to remove it from his or her face.

It is more important that your child is comfortable in his or her Halloween costume, rather than what costume they wear. It will be helpful to know what type of clothing your child finds comfortable and what clothing they find uncomfortable in order to find the best costume for his or her needs.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonDeerfieldLincolnwoodGlenviewLake Bluff, and Des Plaines! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 or fill out the form below and we’ll reach out to you!

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Surviving Halloween With Sensory Issues

How to Survive Halloween with Sensory IssuesWhen I think of Halloween, my mind races back to colorful memories of bright and lively costumes, overly sweet and delicious fun-sized bars of chocolate, and children of all ages screaming “trick or treat”! As most parents know, children who are especially oversensitive to auditory, visual, and tactile stimuli may experience a spark in meltdowns or increase in negative behaviors as a response to this incoming sensory input. Below are some helpful strategies to circumvent these challenges before the day and ensure a safe, fun, and successful Halloween for all.

How to survive Halloween with sensory issues:

  • Recognizing the symptoms of auditory sensitivity is the first step in preventing any tantrums or negative experiences resulting from auditory overload. If your child has auditory sensitivities, investing in some noise-canceling ear plugs or headphones may help to alleviate some of the meltdowns that arise with loud music or conversation at Halloween parties.
  • Trick or treating is one of the most fun and special parts about Halloween. Encouraging children to take part in this special tradition is important to allow them to be able to explore and grow their social skills and leisure opportunities. If your child is tactile or visually sensitive, or he becomes overly emotional or uncomfortable when having to meet and introduce themselves to people, it may be helpful to have an older sibling take on the responsibility of introducing selves to neighbors or family while trick-or-treating. Let your child choose if they want to partake in ringing the doorbell and asking for treats, and know that it is okay if they wish to hang back with caregiver while visiting unfamiliar houses. Role playing with your child to help them prepare for the day’s activities can also be a helpful way to improve their social emotional responses.
  • Practice makes perfect, especially when it comes time to wear a costume! Oftentimes, Halloween costumes can be hot, difficult to put on, or uncomfortable. To avoid this nightmare, prepare your child by having them wear their costume days before the festivities, so that they have an opportunity to break in their costume on their own time, which can highlight any potential issues beforehand. Hosting a fashion show with other siblings or friends could help to make the idea of wearing non-traditional clothing more fun and exciting in a non-threatening environment.
  • For Halloween parties, make sure to bring some familiar food for the child to enjoy. Safe food choices can be comforting in an unfamiliar setting like a family or friend gathering, especially when the parent is not there for support. If the party is at your house, take advantage of this by setting up a sensory corner away from the main area of entertainment and provide extensive individual and all age activities to try out. Some good suggestions may include coloring, painting pumpkins, or themed craft jewelry. Playing quiet music and decreasing the amount bright lighting can help alleviate some stress for children with sensory concerns.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanston, Deerfield, LincolnwoodGlenview, 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!

parent teacher conferences

Ten Tips for Parents for Successful Parent-Teacher Conferences

parent teacher conferencesParent-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:

 

  1. 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.
  2. Make a questions list beforehand. Focus questions not only how the child is doing academically but also socially and behaviorally.
  3. 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.
  4. Ask your child what he or she likes about school and also what he or she does not like.
  5. Ask the teacher how you can make sure your child reaches his or her potential? What extra activities would be recommended?
  6. Ask the teacher who your child is friends with and how that aspect of school is going.
  7. Ask the teacher who your child sits with at lunch and if he or she smiles a lot and looks happy.
  8. Ask the teacher if she has any other concerns about your child besides academics.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

CONTACT US TODAY

 

 

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6 Coping Strategies for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder in Their School Cafeteria

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

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Put a sensory toolkit in their lunchbox- This can vary from child to child, depending on what their sensory needs are. You could put in a fidget for the child who has a hard time sitting still, or a favorite lip balm or lotion for the child who is sensitive to smells to give them a familiar scent to help calm them down (or one to mask the smell of the cafeteria). You could put in pictures of sensory strategies as reminders of how to calm down if they’re getting overwhelmed (e.g. deep breaths, hand-pushes, chair push-ups). Sunglasses could be helpful for the child who is sensitive to the bright lights in the cafeteria.
  5. Familiar foods- For those children with oral sensory sensitivities who are picky eaters, make sure to pack foods they will eat. This is not the time to send mustard on their sandwich for the first time or ask them to try whatever the cafeteria is serving. Have your child help you pack their lunch so 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.
  6. Regulating foods- crunchy foods (e.g. carrots, pretzel sticks) can be very regulating for children with SPD, particularly children with oral-seeking behaviors. Other great food ideas include sucking thick liquids (yogurt, applesauce) from a straw, hard candies, or gum.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanston, LincolnwoodGlenviewLake Bluff, Deerfield, and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at 1-866-309-4610 and speak to an NSPT team member.

Sing, Dance, Draw — All to Learn How to Write!

Learning Without Tears Workshop Review

By: Dana Pais OTD, OTR/L

When you sign up for a continuing education course, you never really know what you’re in for. Sure, the course brochure shares the description and objectives for the day, but what about the instructor’s teaching style? What about the learning activities? Is it going to be all lecture and difficult to sit for 8 hours for 2 consecutive days?

I recently attended two Learning Without Tears (LWT) workshops in Chicago: Pre-K Readiness & Writing and K-5 Handwriting. Both were fantastic! The instructor, Diane Eldridge, was very engaging and fun. She had a good sense of humor and engaging teaching style that is needed when the participants are not used to sitting in a class for 2 days–especially given that the LWT courses are geared towards educators and therapists who spend all day on the move. Diane taught with an appropriate balance of seriousness and lightheartedness. She made sure we had the background information and knowledge needed to utilize the program, while also giving us time to practice and opportunities to collaborate with colleagues.

At the beginning of each workshop, participants are given a large tote bag of materials that are needed to execute the LWT program. There’s lots of fun goodies: activity sets, workbooks, crayons, magnetic stamps, slate chalkboard, songs and more. An occupational therapist’s dream! During the workshops, participants learn how to use all the components to implement the LWT curriculum in an organized manner. The workshops are structured to teach the program using the program materials, which to me is the best hands on way to learn.

Overall, I highly recommend the Learning Without Tears workshops. I fully believe in LWT’s multi-sensory method for teaching handwriting and had a great experience at the workshops. It made me excited to learn about handwriting even though I already know how to write!