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playdate and sensory needs

Play Date Tips for Children With Sensory Needs

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) recognizes play as one of the most fundamentally important occupations in a child’s life. Through play, children are able to make better sense of their world, learn how to adapt to new and unfamiliar situations, and interact and socialize with their peers appropriately. As adults, it is important to provide children the “just right challenge” when preparing for a playdate, especially when a child has sensory needs which could impact their participation. Check out these 3 strategies for ideas on how to prepare for an upcoming play date.

3 Strategies For Play Dates When A Child Has Sensory Challenges:

  1. Load up with heavy work activities before the play date, which are helpful in modulatingSensory Strategies for Playdates arousal, increasing attention, and improving self-regulation. These activities may include jumping on the trampoline, swinging on a swing, laying over an exercise ball, or bouncing on a hippity-hop ball. For children who are sensory seeking, it is especially important to give their body a safe and therapeutic way to release excess energy, especially before they are expected to socialize with peers in organized and cooperative play.
  2. Meet your child where he is by offering a play experience he does not feel stressed about engaging in. For many children with sensory needs, it can be stressful to have to worry about socializing with peers. Providing opportunities that can facilitate parallel play (independent play within proximity to other children), associative play (interacting socially, without adhering to structured rules or game play), or cooperative play (organized activity) may help to bridge the gap between the social demands of the day and their level of comfort.  Activities such as puzzles, water toys, Legos, blocks, and trains can all be used in transitioning between individual play and cooperative play, allowing your child the opportunity to explore without becoming too overwhelmed or overstimulated.
  3. Play dates can be a perfect opportunity to get your child interested in multi-sensory activities. Often, when they see a peer engage in an activity, they are more likely to want to try it themselves. Setting up the environment with various opportunities to engage in sensory play, such as rice bins, baby pools, Lite Brite’s, dried pasta, finger paint, or a make-your-own slime center may also appeal to the sensory seeking kids who love to explore and get their hands messy.

If your child has difficulty participating in structured play, occupational therapy can help. Both play and social participation are two main occupations that foster growth in children. Occupational therapists are trained in providing skilled intervention to encourage a child to explore and engage in play activities that result in successful interactions within the community[1].

Is it Bad Behavior or SPD?


NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview 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!

Occupational Therapy Practice Framework: Domain and Process 2nd Edition. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, November/December 2008, Vol. 62, 625-683. doi:10.5014/ajot.62.6.625

Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapy: The Benefits in a School Setting

Occupational Therapy, as a profession, focuses on promoting participation and completion of daily activities, whether they be work, leisure or self-care activities. Occupational therapy in a pediatric sense focuses on promoting developmental milestones, social and emotional well-being and independence in everyday tasks, whether it be at home or in the school.Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapists are also part of the educational system in the school setting, working in collaboration with educators and other therapy services. Their work allows children to develop the skills needed to perform to their best potential in their academic settings. Occupational therapists, and occupational therapy assistants, help a child in establishing academic and non-academic skills, including critical thinking skills, flexibility, self-regulation, social-emotional well-being, social skills, participation in sports and at recess, self-help skills and more. These skills are crucial as children spend a majority of their life in the roles of student, peer and friend.

Throughout the school year, children are screened and assessed in their natural environments to promote overall academic wellness. When educationally necessary, therapy services are set forth through an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or through a 504, both of which are funded and administered by the state. OTs in this setting have specific knowledge and expertise to appropriately address a child’s needs within the realm of his/her IEP or 504 plan.

Occupational Therapists are trained to:

  • Observe a student in his/her setting and facilitate the student’s full participation.
  • Provide assistive technology as needed to promote academic and social performance.
  • Reduce barriers within the classroom to facilitate full access to the classroom and supplies.
  • Identify short-term and long-term goals for academic outcomes.
  • Provide suggestions for alternative and supported assessment methods, including homework completion and testing.
  • Promoting overall motor, social and emotional development.
  • Developing age-appropriate executive functioning skills, including increasing attention, problem-solving skills, and memory.

The idea of therapy services in the school setting may be daunting but rest assured, these services are individualized to allow children to thrive and perform to the best of their potential.

free occupational therapy consultation

NSPT offers Occupational Therapy services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview 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!

Why Did My Child’s Speech Therapist Recommend Occupational Therapy?

It’s not uncommon for a speech therapist to also recommend that a child receive other therapies in conjunction with speech therapy, such as neuropsychology, physical therapy, counseling, social group therapy, and occupational therapy.  Although your speech therapist is working on your child’s communication, they are also concerned with the “big picture” of your child’s overall development and how other aspects of development may impact speech and language.  Occupational therapy is a commonly made referral.

What is speech-language therapy?

Speech-language therapy is a specialized field that addresses a very specific aspect of development: communication.  This includes how we understand and use words to communicate.  However, the human brain is a highly complex system, with many different sub-systems working together to help us function efficiently.  For example, our speech and language system also depends on our attention system, our memory system, our visual system, and our auditory system (to name a few!).  Weaknesses in one system are likely to impact other systems, much like a domino effect.  Therefore, a “team approach” to therapy is often warranted to help children achieve their greatest potential. Read more

Signs That Your Child May Need Occupational Therapy

Young Girl Writing in Her Exercise Book in the ClassroomAt school, you or your child’s teacher may be noticing difficulties in your child’s school performance. Although you may not be able to see your child work in the classroom, there are some things that you can look for outside of school that  suggest your child could benefit from occupational therapy services.

  1. Difficulty Focusing – If your child is having trouble focusing on her homework, it may be a sign that she’s also having trouble focusing in class. If she gets distracted by noises or people moving about at home, she might also have difficulty paying attention at school and may not be getting the most out of her education.
  2. Difficulty Starting Homework – Your child may have trouble with task initiation if she needs help from you to start her homework or if she   can’t start without having someone present.  Occupational therapists (OT), can help your child work on task initiation so she can be independent with her schoolwork.
  3. Math Problems Don’t Line Up – If your child is consistently getting the wrong answers with math problems, it may be because she has a hard time lining up the numbers correctly. This may be an issue with organization or spatial organization.
  4. Typing Difficulties – Does your child have trouble remembering where the letters are on the keyboard, moving her fingers, typing quickly (in comparison to her peers), or staying error-free when typing? These are all components of manual dexterity and visual memory, which occupational therapists can help improve.
  5. Handwriting Issues – If your child has a hard time writing quickly and neatly, reverses letters, doesn’t form letters correctly, adds too little or too much space between words, or confuses upper and lower case letters, she may need OT to improve her handwriting skills.
  6. Messy Backpack or Folders – This may be a sign that your child has decreased organizational skills, which can affect her ability to complete the correct homework each day.
  7. Forgotten Homework – Your child may benefit from using a planner or calendar system to help keep track of when her homework and projects are due, as well as dates of tests and quizzes. An occupational therapist can help assess her organization and planning deficits and find specific strategies to help her manage her homework.
  8. Lack of Time Management – Does your child have difficulty scheduling her time? Does she spend the majority of her time on leisure activities, while not leaving enough time for homework and getting to bed at a decent hour? If your child is in middle school or older, she should be able to manage her time with little help from her parents.
  9. Poor Fine Motor Skills and Coordination – If your child has difficulty holding a pencil correctly, erasing completely, cutting, folding, or coloring, this may be an indication that your child could benefit from OT. Read our blog addressing daily activities for fine motor strength

These are just a few of the things that may indicate your child could benefit from occupational therapy. Occupational therapists can work on fine motor skills and handwriting, time management, manual dexterity, organization, spatial relationships, memory, and more. By improving these skills, your child will have a greater chance of succeeding in school!

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Executive Functioning Activities At Home

Many kids have difficulty mastering skills such as problem-solving, organization, sequencing, initiation, memory, attention, and breaking downgirl with homework books tasks.  These skills (and many more) fall under the category of executive functioning.  As children get older and begin middle school, these skills are expected to advance quickly.  It is usually in about 5th grade where teachers and parents start to notice their child may be having more difficulty than her peers in executive functioning skills. Academic specialists, occupational therapists, and neuropsychologists are just a few of the professionals who address challenges in these areas, but there are also a variety of activities that can be done at home that are both fun and target the development of certain executive functioning skills.

Here is a list of activities that build certain aspects of executive functioning and are fairly easy to orchestrate in the home:

  • Using Playdoh, blocks, or Tinkertoys, build a figurine and have your child build an exact replica in size and color.  This works on multiple skills, including initiation, breaking down tasks, sequencing, organization, and attention.  If you are unable to build an example, or if you have an older child who enjoys playing independently, there are often pictures of structures to build that come along with block sets or images online that can be printed.
  • Have your child go through a magazine and make a list of all the toys/items wanted. Then, have her organize the list in some sort of order (most wanted at the top, alphabetical, price, etc.).  For older kids, you could also have them write a description of the item, cut the pictures out, and type up a list with descriptions and pasted pictures, or even plan a presentation.
  • There are many board games that target executive functioning skill development.  A few of the games used in the therapeutic setting that would be easy and fun options for home use include: Rush Hour (a problem-solving and sequencing game involving getting a specific car out of a traffic jam when the other vehicles can only move in straight lines), Mastermind (trying to determine what the secret code is by process of elimination), and Connect 4 Stackers (a game of attention, organization, and planning to be the first to get four in a row, like the original, but this game involves different dimensions).
  • There are many resources that can be printed from the internet. Logic puzzles come in many different levels of difficulty and involve taking given clues, making inferences from those clues, and eventually solving some sort of problem through the use of the clues. There are often charts that accompany these puzzles and require attention, organization, sequencing and problem-solving.
  • Have your child choose a recipe from a magazine. After verifying that it is a realistic recipe that can be made in your home, have her write a grocery list containing everything needed to prepare that dish, create a list of the necessary cooking supplies, and for older children, have them look up the price of each item at the store and create an estimated budget. If possible, let them be part of the entire process, and take them with you to the grocery store. Again, with older children, you could even put them in charge of pushing the cart and finding the items in the store. For older kids, they may also act as the “head chef” and be responsible for completing most of the cooking. For younger kids, if there are safety concerns, assign specific tasks as their job in the cooking process.

One of the most important aspects of doing therapeutic activities at home is that your child is having fun. These are just a few of the many activities that can be done at home to develop executive functioning skills and are also engaging and enjoyable for school age kids.




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How To Teach The Word “More” In Baby Sign Language | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, a pediatric speech and language pathologist walks us through teaching baby sign language with an emphasis on the word “more”.

To understand the benefits of baby sign language, click here.

In this video you will learn:

  • The best ways and setting to teach your infant sign language
  • Ways to teach the sign “more” to your infant

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now, your host, here’s
Robyn.

Robyn: Hello, and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host, Robyn
Ackerman, and I’m standing here today with Kate Connolly, a Pediatric
Speech and Language Pathologist. Kate, can you tell our viewers how to
teach baby sign language, and maybe, even show us one of the signs?

Kate: Sure. The best piece of advice I can give you for teaching sign
language is to pick words and environments that are very motivating to your
child, so toys that they really enjoy, activities they love, food they
love. Those are all going to be very motivating for the child, and they
will acquire the language a little bit better, and the sign associated with
it.

One of the earliest signs to talk about is the word more. And it’s two duck-
like fingers and then double tap them very quickly, more. And the best time
to teach this is during mealtimes, because what is more motivating than
food for your child. My advice would be that when your child is indicating
that they would like more of an item, so they’re looking at the
refrigerator, or they are looking at you, they’re pointing at the peaches
in your hand. You can do the double tap, “More? You want more peaches?
Let’s have more.”‘ And then immediately provide your child with the
desired item.

As they start to see that, make sure they are focused on you. They are not
looking away, they are not looking at the refrigerator, they need to be
seeing the sign and associating it with the word, more. Enunciate. Change
your volume, “More? More?” That’s really going to help attract the
attention of the child. Then you can help them do the sign for themselves.
Take their hands into a more pattern and have them do it. And slowly,
slowly, as they get comfortable with the sign, gradually allow them a
little bit more time to do it independently, and hopefully you’ll be
signing with your child in no time.

Robyn: All right. Thank you so much, and thank you to our viewers.
Remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of mind
to your family with the best in educational programming. To subscribe to
our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit our website at
learnmore.me. That’s learnmore.me.

We are Going on a Treasure Hunt!

As I mentioned in my previous blog, sequencing and memory activities are important for people of all ages. These skills help to keep our minds sharp and active and allow us remember old skills as well as learn new patterns and routines. A “treasure hunt” is a fun way to work on these two skills, all wrapped into one child-friendly activity!

How To Create A Treasure Hunt For Your Family!

Parents help son with handwriting

Materials: construction paper, markers, equipment needed within treasure hunt (e.g. ball; scissors etc)

Directions:

  • First, talk out loud together with your child about how many steps you are going to include in your treasure hunt.
  • Next, determine what these steps are going to be (e.g. dribble a tennis ball 10 times, cut out a circle, copy a block design, balance on one leg etc).
  • Make sure that you include age appropriate tasks that your child needs to be working on.
  • Some of these tasks should be ones that are easier and your child can be more successful with, and some should be more challenging to help work on a novel skill and/or skills your child has a harder time with.
  • After you have verbally determined what will be in the treasure hunt, have your child repeat these steps back to you, first verbally, and then by copying the steps onto construction paper in a treasure map format (e.g. working towards the “X” which signifies the ‘treasure’ and the end of the treasure hunt). Lastly, help your child to implement the treasure hunt by having him tell you which step he will be completing first (e.g. first I will ______, and then I will ______).
  • If your child is having a hard time recalling which step comes next, have him refer to his treasure map to visually study the steps again, and then have him state the steps out loud again to help the information stick in his mind. Feel free to do this as often as needed throughout the activity.
  • Your child will show progress in his memory and sequencing skills by requiring less and less visual and/or verbal cues for the sequence of activities. Provide a small reward of your choosing for the “treasure” that your child will enjoy after he has completed the hunt!

Skills addressed in a Treasure Hunt:

  • Fine motor (to draw/write out the treasure map)
  • Auditory processing and memory (to listen to and repeat back the steps of the treasure hunt)
  • Sequencing (to complete the treasure hunt in the correct order)
  • Following directions
  • Attention (staying on task throughout the activity)

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Organization, Social Skills, Puberty, oh my, Junior High! Get your teen ready!

The jump into middle school is a big one for many children and families!  So many unknowns! Higher demands from teachers for time management and organization, more pressure from kids socially, and puberty hitting, all at the same time!Girl in Junior High

Here are some Junior High tips!

Executive Functioning/ Organization

  • Make a daily written schedule and include wake up time, workout time, screen time and leave the house time.  Be very specific.
  • Buy an organization file binder versus the 8 separate folders your child may have had or been asked to bring.  This keeps them much more organized.
  • Ask the school for a locker in a preplanned place so your child does not have to run from one end of school to another if he has a tendency to be late.
  •  Think hard now if your child is struggling and ask for an IEP or 504 plan to get additional time or support.  This will be so helpful and his plan also follow him when he may need it on standardized exams.
  • Use a timer.

Social Skills

  • Get your child into youth groups or sports.  They can be through school clubs, park district, or religious organizations.  Youth groups are wonderful ways to find friends that are similar to your child.
  • Make plans with children that will be in his grade all summer.   He should not walk into school not knowing too many people, especially if he is timid or has any trouble socially.
  • Find a social group for teens at a local clinic or school so that he can practice his social skills with a trained professional.
  • Have your child read over the summer.  This makes them smarter and more confident.  An extra tip: they can also read about all kinds of junior high experiences.

Puberty

  • Read this great book mom and dad: “But I’m Almost 13!” by Kenneth Ginsburg.  It will help you understand and avoid so many struggles!
  • Don’t forget to talk with your child, give eye contact, and hold his hand when you are walking.   Just because he is growing up, does not mean he isn’t still your baby!
  • Kids who go out and start over-prioritizing their peers socially, physically, emotionally, may be looking for attention! Give your teens attention!  (See bullet above) and also, laugh with them, watch tv with them, take them out for an ice cream, don’t disengage!

Good luck!

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What Are Functional Assessments and the Four Main Functions of Behavior?

What are functional assessments?

Functional assessments are used to develop interventions for helping people change their behavior. A functional assessment is a procedure that is used to help identify what is reinforcing or

maintaining the behavior of concern. In order to generate a hypothesis about why an individual does something, a behavior analyst gathers information about the problem behavior (anything an individual does that is harmful or undesirable in some way). By observing the antecedents (what happened immediately before the behavior) and the consequences (what happened immediately after the behavior) of the problem behavior, behavior analysts can develop a probable cause for the behavior.

What is the function of behavior?

The function of behavior is the reason people behave in a certain way. People engage in millions of different behaviors each day, but the reasons for doing these different behaviors fall into four main categories.

The four main functions that maintain behaviors are:

  • Escape/Avoidance: The individual behaves in order to get out of doing something he/she does not want to do.
  • Attention Seeking: The individual behaves to get focused attention from parents, teachers, siblings, peers, or other people that are around them.
  • Seeking Access to Materials: The individual behaves in order to get a preferred item or participate in an enjoyable activity.
  • Sensory Stimulation: The individual behaves in a specific way because it feels good to them.

Once you have identified what function or functions are maintaining the behavior, you can start to implement an intervention that will help decrease the problem behavior and increase more appropriate behaviors.

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

Recess And Behavior: Why Movement Matters

Children need movement on a daily basis! There are so many benefits of allowing children time to engage in physical movement and heavy work activities that to me, it is almost a crime to prevent children from having their physical play time.

Allowing Children To Move Benefits Everyone

Children learn and grow through movement. They refine gross motor and sports skills and they increase their motor control, coordination, and muscle strength through movement. In addition, movement promotes cognition, organized behaviors, self esteem and self confidence, self Happy Boy On Monkey Barsregulation, a calm body, and attention.

When children sit for longer than 15 minutes at a time, their attention and concentration is reduced, and discipline problems begin to increase. When this happens, children are less available to learning, more energy is spent on behavior management by the teacher/parent and the children, and nobody wins.

All children benefit from a break in their mental focus. Recess provides opportunities for unstructured physical play, which allows kids to “blow off steam”, and reduces stress. Recess increases attention and on-task behaviors, and decreases fidgety behaviors.

Additionally, we have an epidemic of childhood obesity in our country, which is heavily impacted by a lack of physical activity. Physical activity during recess promotes the health of our children now and in their future. In general, the goal should be a minimum of one hour of exercise daily by the time your child reaches elementary school and thereafter.

Removing Or Skipping Recess Can Increase Undesired Behavior

One of the biggest mistakes a teacher or other adult can make is to keep a child inside for recess, especially if the reason is as a consequence for misbehavior, tardiness, or something the child did not do. Sometimes, a class cannot go out for recess because of weather. In this case, it is definitely best to allow the children to use the gym instead. If the gym is not available, doing animal walk races, yoga, or some other kind of movement based activities in their classroom will benefit everyone.

Requiring children to sit for longer periods of time without allowing relief through movement breaks is contradictory to what adults are asking children to do in terms of academic achievement, physical health, and emotional health. Their brains and bodies need breaks in order to achieve greater academic success.