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7 Tips for Helping Children with Autism Handle Breaks from School

Breaks during the school year can end up being stressful for parents.  The key to success would be to prepare as much as possible beforehand. blog-autism-school-breaks-main-landscape

Try these 7 tips to help your child with Autism handle breaks from school:

  • Give your child a heads up that there is going to be a break in the routine. Mark down the days on a calendar, and consistently review it with them starting a couple weeks before leading up to the break.
  • Work with outside therapy providers to create visual schedules or prompts that can make the break run more smoothly—this is especially true for kids who follow schedules at school regularly.
  • Keep your routine as consistent as possible during the break—keep bedtime, chores and meal times as close as you can to what kids would typically do.
  • Provide as much structure as possible during the break, the less down time you have, the better! This can be a good time to plan outings to places you can’t typically go, such at the zoo, aquarium, museums, and parks.
  • Check in with teachers about possible activities and academics that could be practiced over break. Frequently, teachers will assign extra work during this time.
  • Use the break to keep your child caught up in school—review their homework and give them a head start for what’s coming up at school after the break!
  • Breaks are also a great time to add more hours of therapy!

For additional information, check out our other Autism and school blogs.

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

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This blog was co-written with Jennifer Bartell.

Jennifer BartellJennifer Bartell is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and educator with over a decade of experience working with learners diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, double majoring in psychology and music performance, and earning a place on the Dean’s List. Following a move to New York City, Jennifer received her Master of Special Education degree from the City University of New York—Hunter College, wherein she specialized in Behavior Disorders and became dual certified to teach both the general and special education populations. While in New York, Jennifer was a part of the opening of the innovative NYC Autism Charter School—the first of its kind on the east coast—and had the opportunity to work in classrooms with reduced and one-to-one ratios and a curriculum created using the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis. Here she worked extensively with learners between the ages of 3 and 18, and presenting with an array of challenges, skill deficits, and abilities. Jennifer has vast experience in creating programming for community-based instruction, adaptive daily living skills, and self-care, yet also employs her education background to provide high quality academic and cognitive services as well. A well-respected member of the home- and school-based organizations for whom she has provided services, Jennifer is frequently called upon to provide professional development and training for her colleagues and those she is supervising. Jennifer has presented at a number of professional Applied Behavior Analysis and education conferences for fellow educators, behavior analysts, and parents around the New York area.

Collaboration Between Teachers and Related Service Providers

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary to collaborate means “to work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something.” When we work with children we are constantly blog-collaboration-main-landscape-01collaborating in order to provide children with the best possible education. Within a school there is a lot of collaboration that is evident between teachers, teachers and paraprofessionals, teachers and administrators, as well as between teachers and parents/families. Within special education there is a lot of collaboration that occurs as well in the school setting. But what about outside the school setting?

Many of the students who receive special education services within the school also receive services outside of the school setting. It is essential that the lines of communication are open not only within schools but with these other related service providers that are involved in a specific student’s daily life. Every individual or company that is involved in the well-being and education of the child should be communicating their role and how that can be facilitated throughout the child’s day to day life. This collaboration is key to ensuring that the child is receiving the best services and education. So how do we go about collaborating with other service providers?

There are many ways to collaborate. The key to collaboration is communication! The parent is the mediator since they have direct contact with teachers and the other service providers.

Below are some important ways that we can open up the flow of communication:

What parents can do:

  • Provide each teacher and/or provider with a contact information document.
    • This should include the names and contact information of teachers and other providers who work with your child.
  • Check–in with the various adults that work with your child to ensure that they have gotten in touch.
  • Provide updates yourself to teachers or other service providers about your child’s goals and progress.

What teachers can do:

  • Ask parents for contact information of other service providers that the student might be seeing (if the parent doesn’t provide you with this information).
  • Reach out to other service providers.
  • Update other service providers throughout the school year in regards to the student’s performance and goals.

What service providers can do:

  • Ask parents for contact information of other services providers that the student might be seeing (if the parent doesn’t provide you with this information).
  • Reach out to other service providers
  • Update other service providers and teachers throughout the year in regards to the student’s performance and goals.

The points made above are essential to ensuring that the lines of communication have been opened and everyone can begin to collaborate!

Collaborating is more than just emailing and making phone calls with updates. It should also involve meeting in person as a group and individually to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Once introductions have been completed a meeting should be arranged with all professionals and the family. This provides everyone with the opportunity to meet! In addition, it gives everyone the time to sit down and discuss the child so that everyone can ensure that they are all working together allowing fluidity between the variety of settings that the child will be in.

One meeting is not enough! Make sure at the end of the meeting that a date and time is set for another meeting a few months down the line. This meeting would be more about progress, new goals, successes or challenges that any of the professionals or family are having with the child.

Collaboration is all about teamwork! Working as a team is essential for the success of the children that we work with. We need to ensure that we continue to keep the lines of communication open and work with each other and the family. It is important to loop all professionals the family into decision making processes and program planning. It is also important to share a child’s success and progress so that the same high standard and expectations are held for the child no matter the setting. Collaboration is a truly important component in ensuring that our children are provided with the best services and education.

For additional information, check out our other Autism and school blogs.

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

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7 Tips for Working on Social Skills During School

School days can be a perfect opportunity for children to work on social skills. Children are surrounded by their peers throughout the day and there are endless opportunities for interaction.Blog-Social Skills-Tips-Main-Landscape

Here are some opportunities to promote social skills throughout the school day:

  • During circle time, snack time and lunch time, have the child sit next to different peers each day. This will promote multiple opportunities to meet new peers!
  • Assign different “peer buddies” for the child throughout the day and week. These peer buddies can help assist the child complete tasks, play games with the child, engage them in conversation and model appropriate behaviors.
  • Set up small, group structured activities such as completing puzzles, building train tracks, playing a board game or playing catch. It is often easier for children to interact and develop appropriate skills in a small group setting, rather than in a large group.
  • For older kids, during lunch time, give the table a topic of conversation to talk about that day to promote conversational skills.
  • If children need help throughout the day, prompt them to ask their peers for help, rather than always approaching an adult.
  • Set up situations where the child would need to interact with peers. For example, if there is a play dough station, have all the tools with the other peers, so that the child would need to ask their friend for tools in order to complete the activity.
  • Parents can also talk to the teacher about peers who the child gets along with, and set up play dates at home with the peers so they can practice those skills in different places.

For additional information, check out our other Autism and school blogs.

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

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Introducing Your Child with Autism to Classmates

All parents hope that their children will meet new friends and have an active social life—this is not any Blog-Autism-Classmates-Main-Landscapeless true for parents of kids with autism! In fact, it is this very subject that is mentioned near the top of many parents’ wish lists when asked what their greatest hope is for their child on the autism spectrum!

It can occasionally be more challenging for friendships to occur naturally due to the reduced interest in social interaction demonstrated by kids on the spectrum. However, as with many of the academic, life, and self-care skills that are taught systematically to these kids, social interaction skills and rules of friendship may be slowly introduced and put into action!

In order for these skills to be taught and practiced, however, there are a few things that parents can do to set their child with autism up for success in this area:

  • Ask your child’s teacher about possible peers: There are frequently a few kids in each general education classroom that appear empathetic and interested in our kids with autism. These are great candidates for peer interactions and possible friendships! Your child’s teacher will most likely have a few ideas about whom might pair well with your child in this manner, within the first few weeks of school.
  • Observe your child’s classroom, if possible: Most schools have parent observation policies that designate times of day that are best suited to seeing what’s going on in the classroom. Take some time to notice which kids are approaching him or her and whether these might be kids to ask over for a play date!
  • Volunteer to present a mini autism lesson, if possible: There are countless resources online for helping typically developing kids understand autism spectrum disorders, and what they can expect from someone who is on the spectrum. One I particularly like outlines some amazing books to help peers understand your child and his or her diagnosis: https://www.angelsense.com/blog/10-great-books-for-families-of-kids-with-autism/
  • Reach out to parents: Upon observing a child approaching or interacting with your child (or upon recommendation from the teacher), attempt to contact that child’s parents, and set up a time for the kids to get together!
  • Plan your play date: It will be very important that both kids are having a great time! Try to think of activities that are of particular interest to your child, and bring that peer along. For example, if your child really enjoys going to the zoo, and has an interest in animals, plan to visit the zoo on the kids’ first play date. This will pair the typically developing peer with something that is your child’s absolute favorite thing, and could lead to a stronger relationship!
  • Speak to the BCBA/supervisor in charge of your child’s services about programming for peer interaction: This is very common, and should be an integral part of any child’s treatment plan. Ensure that this is being programmed for specifically, and that there are opportunities to practice the skills both one-to-one during therapy, as well as in vivo with another child!

With practice, patience, and mindfulness on the part of adults, kids on the autism spectrum can develop meaningful and fulfilling relationships with their typically developing peers!

For additional information, check out our other Autism and school blogs.

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

Meet-With-An-Applied-Behavior-Analyst
This blog was co-written with Rachel Nitekman.

Rachel Nitekman

Rachel is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) with over 10 years of experience working with children with autism, Down syndrome, and other developmental delays.  After graduating from the Blitstein Institute in 2011, she went on to receive her Masters in Psychology specializing in ABA, from Kaplan University, while working full time as a pediatric behavior therapist.  Rachel has worked with children in a variety of settings, including home, camp and school. She also worked for KESHET, an organization that provides services for children and young adults with varying developmental delays. Rachel is passionate about her work in helping children succeed to their fullest potentials in life.

My Child Chews on Their Shirt

Many children chew on various things such as clothing, toys, and other household items. Blog-Chew-Main-PortraitThis can be a way of your child exploring his environment, fulfilling a sensory need, or it is being used as a calming strategy. Chewing on items is very common in children with autism as well as some typically developing children. Shirts are most often the item that gets chewed on because it is always available and easily accessible.

Below are a few tips on how to properly address children who chew:

  • Replace the shirt with a chewing toy. These items will allow your child to get that oral input of chewing without destroying their clothing. Chewing toys come in many forms such as tubes, necklaces, bracelets and shapes, and they are widely available on many therapeutic websites. Make sure this chewing toy is always accessible, and if you see your child begin to chew on his shirt, immediately give him the chewing item, or better yet have your child wear the chewing item so it is easily accessible.
  • If the chewing is something your child does when he is nervous, begin to explore other calming techniques in an attempt to replace the chewing with something more socially appropriate.
  • Reinforce your child during times when he is not chewing on his shirt.
  • Taking chewing breaks throughout the day. Engage your child in very fun and reinforcing activities, but let them know the chewing item needs to be put aside while they engage in the activity. Activities can include swinging, going to the park, playing a game on a tablet, singing songs, or whatever activity is really reinforcing to your child.
  • Engage your child in various oral exercises such as singing, blowing bubbles, making different sounds with their mouth, etc. Be creative and make these exercises fun and enjoyable.
  • If it seems like your child is in pain while he is chewing on items, it is important to seek the opinion of a medical professional to rule out any medical or dental issues.

If the chewing does not decrease over time or begins to worsen, there are a variety of therapists that are able to help with this behavior. These therapists can include Board Certified Behavior Analysts, Speech Therapists, Occupational Therapists, or Social Workers. Once the function of the behavior is determined, your child could begin one of the above therapies to assist in decreasing the behavior.

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

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Child misbehaving in school

Behavior In The Classroom

Many times children with behavioral concerns, attention issues, emotional concerns, or learning disorders will exhibit negative behaviors within the classroom setting.  Behaviors, by nature, are reasonable and driven by some factor.  The majority of the time, there is a purpose and a reason as to why a child engages in a negative behavior. What this indicates is that it is vital to figure out what the driving force of the behavior was as well as what the consequences of the behavior are.

If a parent or teacher has significant concerns about a child’s behavior, it is truly important to figure out what is going on.  Many times in these situations a Functional Behavioral Analysis (FBA) is required.  An FBAis when some behavioral specialist with the school will go and observe the child over several days and several times during the days.  The individual will first identify the percentage of time the child is off task in comparison to a few peers.  It is always important to have the percentage of off task behavior with several other children in the classroom.  This way there is anecdotal data indicating that child ‘X’ was off task xx% while the other children on average were off task only xx% which could indicate that the child in question actually is off task more than peers.

Child misbehaving in schoolOnce off-task time is established the focus is then on identifying the antecedents and consequences of the behaviors at hand.  There almost always is a driving force (the antecedent) which causes the behavior.  In addition, there usually is a reaction, either positive or negative (consequence), which results in increasing the likelihood of the behavior in the future.

Once the FBA has concluded and information has been disseminated to the team, the next step is to create an action plan to decrease negative behaviors while increasing positive, on-task behaviors.  This is when a functional intervention plan is created.  This plan utilizes the data created by the FBA to set up reinforcement of on-task behaviors, identify triggers and situations that might increase the negative behavior, and set up manageable goals.  A goal must be manageable and attainable.  For example, if a child is off task on average 80% of the day, a goal of being off task 10% of the day would be unrealistic.  What might be established is that with reinforcement and behavioral management, the goal for the first few weeks would be that the child is off task only 70% of the day, then slowly decrease it until the goal is consistent with the amount of time that the rest of the class is off task.

The take home message about behavior in school is that in order to change behavior we have to first identify what the behavior we want to change is, how often it occurs, and why it occurs (what triggers it and what does the child get out of it).

What is Pairing? Advice for Pediatric Therapists

Pairing is a very important part of starting a therapy program with a child.  It helps you, as a therapist, build rapport with the child and establish a pairingrelationship.  When working with a child, one of the main things you want to do is pair yourself with fun and reinforcing items.  You want the child to find you, and the environment, exciting and pleasing.  If the child is having fun and likes being with you, then he will be more motivated to come to therapy to work and play.

6 tips to help with pairing:

  1. Play!  When you first meet a child show him the different toys, games, and activities that are available.  Allow him to play with the different items to familiarize himself. Read more

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