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!

Happy Travels with a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder

Throughout the year, you and your family are bound to hit the open road a time or two forTraveling with Sensory Processing Disorder one of a number of reasons. Many families may want to check out the scene in a new city. Others, will seek thrills at an amusement park or visit a family member that lives out of town. These trips can provide children with priceless learning opportunities and families with memories that will last a lifetime. For children with Sensory Processing Disorders however, these trips can be also be extremely challenging. Below are 6 tips and tricks to use in order to best support children who have difficulty processing sensory information on your next family vacation.

  1. Discuss what to expect: Talking about the specific logistics of a trip can help to ease your child’s anxiety about the ambiguity of what’s coming next. Similarly, it’s important to talk about what will be expected of your child while traveling. Here are some questions that your child may have prior to traveling. Think through each one and discuss them as a family before your next adventure begins:
    1. What is the mode of transportation (ie. plane, train, or automobile)?
    2. What will you see? Will there be a lot of people?
    3. What will you smell?
    4. What will you hear? Will it be loud?
    5. How much time will it take? What will you do to pass the time?
    6. How much space will your child have? Will there be time or room to play?
    7. What are the rules while traveling?
  2. Decrease the amount of extraneous and unfamiliar noise: Use noise cancelling headphones or calming music. Both strategies can help your child to calm themselves and more effectively process auditory sensory information, especially with the added stressors of travel.
  3. Prepare a backpack of travel essentials: Many adults pack a small carry-on bag with a few items that will help them pass the time. Items often include shoulder pillows, eye masks, ear phones and iPods; as well as a favorite book or magazine. For children with various sensory processing disorders, include some of the items listed below:
    1. Snacks, water, gum, or hard candies.
    2. Pack a heavy object to help your child regulate. A book or weighted blanket are great options.
    3. Bring a comfort object such as a blanket or favorite stuffed animal.
    4. Include fun activities such as mini board games, coloring pages, books, or playing cards
  4. Call the airline or tourist destination ahead of time: Explain your child’s sensory needs. Certain airlines, parks, and museums have special accommodations for children with sensory processing disorders.
  5. Preparatory Heavy Work: Before taking off for your trip, or during breaks in travel, engage your kiddos in Heavy Work activities. Tasks include animal walks, pushing or pulling luggage, push ups, or big hugs from mom and dad. All of these activities provide your child’s big muscle and joint groups with proprioceptive input. This input is extremely regulating for children, like exercise could be for an adult, and will help to calm your child for the next leg of travel.
  6. Expect some ornery fellow passengers: While it is unfortunate, you may come across someone throughout your travels who will have a low tolerance for kids being kids. Depending on your comfort level in doing so (or your ability to turn the other cheek), write out small note cards explaining that your child has a Sensory Processing Disorder and that as a family, you are doing the best you can to travel with minimal interruptions to the routines of those around you. You could even offer nearby passengers earplugs to help block out any extraneous noises.

The bottom line is that while traveling can be challenging, it can also be an extremely rewarding experience for everyone involved. With a fair amount of foresight and appropriate preparation, you can help to shape your trip into an experience of a lifetime for your whole family. Happy travels!

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!

benefits of neuropsychology testing

Neuropsychological evaluations for kids

benefits of neuropsychology testing

How can neuropsychological testing benefit my child?

  • Testing can identify your child’s learning style and cognitive strengths.
  • Additionally, an evaluation will help our neuropsychologists recommend adjustments to implement at school and/or at home.
  • Furthermore, neuropsychological testing can help determine any appropriate therapies such as speech or Applied Behavior Analysis.

My child has a recommendation for a neuropsychological evaluation, now what?

  • First, schedule an appointment. Testing appointments are available Monday to Friday, and all appointments begin at 9 a.m.
  • Next, your doctor provides you with parent and teacher rating scales that you will fill out and return on the day of the testing appointment.
  • Lastly, a Family Child Advocate will work with you to schedule the testing and feedback appointments.

Where is pediatric neuropsychological testing done?

All neuropsychology testing is currently carried out in our Des Plaines clinic.  The Early Childhood Developmental Assessments take place in multiple clinics. Additionally, the intake and neuropsych testing appointment take place in our Des Plaines clinic, and the speech and OT appointments typically scheduled in the clinic nearest the family.

In order to help accommodate families, our 3 psychologists visit other clinics for intakes and feedbacks. See our website for scheduling.

Who conducts neuropsychological testing?

Conducting the appointment is one of our expertly-trained, master’s level neuropsychology technicians or doctoral-level diagnostic students. These professionals go through the same rigorous training program as our in-house technicians.  Testing is monitored throughout the day by one of our psychologists and Training Coordinator.

Due to this testing model, we are able to see upwards of 20 kids per week! As a result, this means less time until you and your child can begin the process of getting the help he/she needs! Certainly, we do our best to get your child in for testing in a timely manner to avoid any long wait lists.


NSPT offers services in the following locations:  BucktownEvanstonDeerfieldLincolnwoodGlenviewLake BluffDes Plaines, and Mequon!

If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (866) 815-6592 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

 

Be Prepared for Winter Break

The holidays can be magical and peaceful, but it can also mean kids home from school on winter break, schedules thrown off, and too much candy! We’ve put together a few tips to help you enjoy this special time of year with the family:

The benefit of old-fashioned toys

According to NBC news, old-fashioned toys are some of the most educational and worthwhile gifts you can give kids this holiday season. Toys like wooden blocks require kids to interact, imagine, and problem solve in ways that even an educational game on the iPad cannot achieve.

In order to express creativity, kids should move their actual bodies and have a tangible way to express their creativity. So when grandparents or friends are asking what to buy your kids this holiday, try suggesting a good old fashioned game. It does not have to be expensive or fancy to be effective.

Tis the season to be flexible

The holidays are packed with parties and obligations, but be careful not to put difficult demands on yourself. If you need to come late or leave early, do what you need to do. A little flexibility will go a long way. Holiday photos are nice too, but not if it means a battle over clothes. Let your child dress in what is most comfortable for them and everyone will be more relaxed.

Try a local transit museum

The New York Transit Museum staff noticed that their most enthusiastic visitors were boys on the spectrum, a phenomenon seen at similar museums around the globe. For an activity the whole family may enjoy, try a local transit museum or even simply a ride on the subway or train, stop have a snack, and make your way back.

Set aside time for self-care

You know that whole put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping others thing? There’s a reason for that. If you and your partner are burned out, everything this month will just be that much harder. Drop the kids off with a trusted relative or experienced sitter and sneak away for a glass of wine, a movie, dinner date or simply enjoy a quiet morning in the house alone.

Sensory activities for snow days

Every child needs sensory input to stay focused, regulated, and organized throughout the day, especially children who have sensory processing challenges. If the weather is frightful, these make for some great tactile/messy play indoor activities for a child with tactile processing challenges:

  • Play-doh/theraputty
  • Finger painting
  • Shaving cream
  • Create sensory bins of rice, beans, sand, noodles, etc.
  • Cooking/baking (allow the child to mix with their hands to explore new textures)

Check out our other winter blogs for additional ideas and tips!

Bully Pointing And Laughing At Boy

Bullying: Helping the Child who is the Bully

Written by:
Erilda Borici, LCPC
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
Clinical Advisor for Mental Health and Counseling

The last days of summer are quickly approaching and that means that school is just around the corner. While many kids are looking forward to seeing their friends and teachers again, there are some kids who are dreading the return to school. For children and teens who are bullied, returning to school means having to endure endless teasing, name-calling, exclusion, threats and for some, physical aggression. It can be scary for these kids that experience consistent bullying at school. But what about the child who IS the bully?Bully Pointing And Laughing At Boy

Bullying is defined as “unwanted aggressive behavior among children that involves a real or perceived imbalance of power”. (Stopbullying.gov) The bullying is persistent or has the potential to be repeated over time. It can be verbal, physical, social/emotional or sexual. It can take place on the playground, in the cafeteria, in the classroom, in the neighborhood or online.  Between 1 in 4 and 1 in 3 US students say that they have been bullied in school (CDC). As we all know, it’s a prevalent problem, and while there have been so many great initiatives on how to help bullying victims, there is not enough information on the children who bully, why they do it, and how to help them stop.

Approximately 30% of US students have admitted to bullying someone. (CDC) If we think about how “the bully” is portrayed in movies and TV, we often see images of the angry kid who has low self-esteem. This is not always true. A child who bullies could also be the quiet, honor student, the happy, popular cheerleader or the student council member. Appearance really doesn’t have much to do with it and children who bully can be of any income level, race, family situation, gender, or religion.

Research shows that some of the reasons why children bully are:

  • Lack of empathy, perspective taking, and compassion.
  • Have poor social skills.
  • Might be bullied themselves.
  • Witness/experience aggression at home from parents or siblings.
  • Want to be “cool” or be part of a group that encourages bullying.
  • Quick to blame others and struggle with accepting responsibility for their actions.
  • Might be struggling with depression, anger issues, anxiety.

How to help children with bullying behaviors.

It’s important to start changing the language of how to refer to these kids. Using phrases like “once a bully, always a bully” can be really damaging. Sticking someone the term “bully” does not help prevent bullying. Bullying is about behavior which means that it’s about making a choice. Here are some tips on how to help support and teach children about stopping behaviors that are hurtful to others.

  • Teach your child about bullying from an early age. It’s important to talk to your child about how to treat others with respect, kindness, empathy and most importantly acceptance. Accepting that others might be different than us but that everyone is deserving of respect.
  • Teaching responsibility and accountability. Bullying is not caused by something the victim said or did. Children with bullying behaviors can become good at making excuses or blaming others for their actions. It’s important to help these children recognize the impact of their behaviors and take responsibility for their choices.
  • Provide clear consequences. Kids who are bullying others at school should be held accountable for their actions. If your child is bullying, take immediate action on providing clear consequences and discussing that the behavior is not tolerated.
  • Role-playing is a great tool to use to help model for kids how to resolve conflict, problem solve and manage difficult social situations. You can take turns playing the child who is doing the bullying and the victim to help your child see a different perspective.
  • Talk to your child about cyberbullying. Today, a child or teen has many choices on how to connect with friends and a lot of it is happening online. Many kids use social media platforms such as Instagram, and Snapchat to communicate and connect with their friends. While these apps are a lot of fun, they also provide opportunities for cyberbullying. It’s important to have a conversation about online safety with your child and to discuss some guidelines. Create a code of conduct such as:
    • Do not use social media to humiliate or embarrass someone.
    • Treat others online with the same respect that you would in person.
    • Do not post photos or videos of someone without their permission.

Continue to check in with your child about their online activity and review safety guidelines.

  • Talk with School Personnel. If your child is exhibiting bullying behaviors or if you are concerned that might in the future, reach out to the school and discuss these concerns with a school social worker or principal. Find out if your child’s school has a bullying prevention program or perhaps offers social skills groups that target teaching perspective taking, empathy, managing conflicts, and cooperation.
  • Provide positive feedback. When you notice your child is resolving conflict positively, responding with compassion and empathy or can effectively problem solve a situation, praise these behaviors. Positive reinforcement works wonders and is usually more effective than punishment. Providing your child with positive attention is crucial and will make your child feel confident and secure. Children who receive positive attention at home will be less likely to seek negative attention at school.

 

References:

stopbullying.gov. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Aug. 2018.
<https://www.stopbullying.gov/what-is-bullying/index.html>.

National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics, School Crime Supplement – PDF,  2011.

Pacer Center, Kids against bullying. https://pacerkidsagainstbullying.org/

A Small Break from Therapy – What’s the Big Deal?

Written by: Erilda Borici and Olivia Smith

Now that warm weather has finally arrived, many children and families are eagerly awaiting the end of the school year and the beginning of the summer break. Summer is the perfect time of the year to play outside with friends and to enjoy family time.  It’s also an excellent opportunity to add additional therapy sessions to maintain progress made during the school year or to meet goals. 

When your child is in need of counseling, speech therapy, occupational therapy, ABA or physical therapy, an individualized treatment plan is created by your therapist. Therapists build a strong rapport and a trusting relationship with children through consistent time spent together.  A break in therapy disrupts their treatment plan and can delay progress.

There are multiple ways to maximize your child’s time in therapy during the summer months by participating in our multidisciplinary approach. If necessary, your child can receive various therapeutic services all under one roof. 

For children who have diagnoses of Autism, ADHD, or other developmental, cognitive, or mental health concerns, multiple therapeutic services are recommended to allow your child to reach their full potential. Apart from the convenience of having all  of your child’s services under one roof, therapists collaborate with each other to ensure consistency for your child. Coordination of care will allow your child to grow and gain skills as rapidly as possible.   

The summer months bring lots of opportunities for children to play at parks, learn to use/ride various gross motor toys such as bikes or scooters, or play at the beach. Therapy is play based so it’s fun! 

Many of our clinics have a sand table where children can learn how to build sand castles, or jungle gym equipment that they can learn to navigate safely. We teach bike riding!  Mastery of these skills during your child’s sessions provides confidence that they can participate in these activities safely and effectively outside of the clinic setting.  One of the most important goals in therapy is to have fun while skill building.

Here are some tips on maintaining consistency and getting the most out of treatment for your child.  

  • Since children are out of school, they have a lot more availability during the day to participate in therapy, and while camp and extracurricular activities are important, and great options for staying active, they cannot replace individualized therapy plans.   
  • Summer can be filled with unstructured time. For kiddos who struggle with ADHD, Autism, or Anxiety, this can be exacerbate some of their symptoms. Maintaining scheduled therapy hours provides children with consistency and routine to continue to work on their treatment goals.  
  • Rescheduling missed sessions is easier during the Summer months. (you might even be able to see a different therapist, depending on your child’s needs)  
  • Plan ahead and schedule additional sessions if you have an upcoming vacation or break, your therapist may have extra flexibility as well. 
  • Remember, school may be out, but kiddos who maintain their therapy schedules thrive when Autumn arrives! 

**Please keep in mind cancellations should be done at least 24 to 48 hours in advance, so other families also have the chance to reschedule.


NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines and Mequon! 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!

 

Language Development in Children with Down Syndrome

Language development for children diagnosed with Down Syndrome can be challenging and confusing. Factors such as cognitive and motor delays, hearing loss and visual problems can interfere with language acquisition. It’s important that a child’s caregivers provide a variety of opportunities to increase language development.Down Syndrome Language Development

Using many normal everyday activities can enhance the child’s language and expose them to new concepts. The language you teach to your child will assist them in learning and generalizing new information.

The following are early intervention strategies that can be used to help children with Down Syndrome develop and increase their understanding of language:

Take advantage of language opportunities during daily routines:

  • Activities such as taking a bath, cooking, grocery shopping, changing a diaper, or driving in the car are a wonderful time for learning. Caregivers can consistently identify actions, label items, expand on their children’s utterances to facilitate vocabulary acquisition and overall language development. It takes a lot of repetition for children to learn and start to use words appropriately. Include a variety of words that include all the senses. “Does the water feel hot?” or “Can you smell the cookies?” When speaking, identify textures, colors, express feelings etc.

Read, read, read:

  • It can never be said enough how important reading is to children. When reading a book, it’s important to not only read the words on the page, but to talk about what is on the page, what the characters are doing or how they might be feeling. Make reading a book an interactive experience.

Incorporate play time with other kids:

  • Children can learn a lot just by interacting with other children as they are interested in and motivated by their peers. They imitate each other’s actions and will learn from them. Play time with other children will also help them develop social skills. Concepts such as sharing, taking turns, pretend play, creating, etc. can all be increased.

Play with them:

  • Children don’t know how to play with toys and games on their own, we need to show them. Get on the floor and play with blocks, balls, bubbles, sing a song, etc. During this time talk about what you and the child are doing (Ex: stack up the blocks, let’s blow more bubbles, it’s my turn) and expand on their utterances. Play time is critical for children to develop their ability to focus and attend to a task. When you are engaged together in a task, you are developing a special bond with your child and they are learning!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonDeerfieldLincolnwoodGlenviewLake BluffDes PlainesHinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

Increase Your Child’s Executive Functioning Skills

As we previously learned in our blog What Are Executive Functioning Skills?, executive functioning skills are what help all of us achieve goal-directed behaviors. They are the building blocks of successful planning, appropriate communication and relationships, and task-oriented behaviors. Executive Functioning

To help your child increase his/her executive functioning skills, we must look at the whole child. If there are other issues, those must be addressed with qualified professionals, supportive family members and school staff.

To help your child become a prepared, organized individual, increase his self-esteem and aid him in social situations, executive functioning skills are crucial.

It is never too late to offer and obtain help; and for your child to learn the skills needed to increase his abilities. As with any skill, it will take effort, practice, praise and patience.

Try these tips to help your child improve their executive functioning skills:

Pre-school and Elementary School

Helping your child increase executive functioning skills may involve adding more structure to his environment.

Aid your child with putting out clothes the night before school or having her backpack ready at the door. Show your child how to put away her toys and allow her to do it on her own.

Do homework shortly after she gets home and in the same spot each time, with minimal distractions. If she is having trouble with staying on task at school, then the school may offer (and you can advocate for) accommodations through an Individual Education Plan.

Demonstrate through your actions and encouragement that being prepared is a positive message that creates less stress for her and the entire family. Model being on time and planning ahead. Use a calendar to plan playdates and appointments, and encourage your child’s participation in basic planning skills (like setting the table for dinner, studying for a spelling quiz, or writing a card for an upcoming party).

Help her notice when it is her turn to talk, and how others feel if she interrupts. Ask her to think about others’ feelings and behaviors and how her actions or words may impact them.

Middle School and High School

As your child gets older, help him to develop skills aimed at organization and time management. Continue encouraging your child to prepare for school the night before. Sit in the same place to do homework every day. Try to begin assigned work when still fresh and not wait until late at night.

Use an assignment notebook. If needed, have the teacher sign it, check it and give it back to provide accountability. Offer positive reinforcement for fulfilling goals. Limit electronics and distractions. Use a timer to discourage procrastination. Give praise.

Enlist help from the school. If your child’s grades are extremely inconsistent, his work is disorganized and he continually forgets to bring/do homework assignments, it is likely time to speak to your child’s teacher, counselor or social worker.

Your child may need further accommodations at school. These may be resource time to finish homework, meetings with the counselor for encouragement, checking his backpack and locker, preferential seating in class, checking of his assignment notebook to ensure he is writing down his assignments and knows what is expected.

College Years and Beyond

The goal is for our children to be prepared to not just handle the world of work and daily living on their own, but to be happy and successful doing so. Using executive functioning skills such as time management, planning, and organization enables kids to be successful when they are on their own. Being prepared for a work presentation takes planning, time constraint considerations, and organization.

Increase confidence in your child and help him build positive relationships as he learns to navigate social interactions, anticipate possible outcomes and problem-solve to come up with potential consequences of his behavior.

Executive functioning skills will allow your child to cope with many of the stresses presented in his daily life.

Let’s help our children now to increase executive functioning skills that will allow them to be productive and successful in their future. Help them continue to blossom!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonDeerfieldLincolnwoodGlenviewLake BluffDes PlainesHinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

Meet-With-An-Applied-Behavior-Analyst