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10 Tips for a Positive, Fun and Confident Transition Back to School

The next few weeks are full of big and exciting changes! Back-to-school time can be full of fun and excitement, but also can bring up worries and nervous feelings. It is normal for children to Blog-School-10Tips-Main-Landscapeexperience sadness, worry or feel unsure as they embark on new classrooms, new friends, and new experiences. With support and help to manage their emotions, young children can be successful and experience delight and fun in their new adventures.

Teachers work hard to provide children with the support and encouragement for a smooth and positive back to school transition and help to build comfort and confidence at school.

Parents and families can continue the support and encouragement at home to help their child feel successful and happy as they head back to school with the following 10 tips:

  1. Talk through the steps of a new situation so children can know what to expect and can feel prepared. It also allows you to see how they might be feeling about it. Children don’t need to repeat it or have a long conversation about it, just the basics on what to expect can help.

Talk about, draw or write down the steps to a new experience (even if your child isn’t reading yet), visuals provide a concrete guide that children like to follow. It is helpful to talk during a calm moment the night before, during meal time, or earlier in the day. Provide the steps clearly and concisely and let them know what you expect.

Talk about specifics that are new like car line and drop off. Talk through the steps of car line. “First we will pull up in line with the other cars, we will wait our turn, I will let you know when it’s time and then a teacher will come to the car door to walk you into school. We will wave goodbye and you will walk safely and calmly into school.” Provide specific cues on what you would like to see from your child.

  1. Practice! Children love to move and be independent. Physically practicing a new task gives them the confidence to do it on their own when it’s time.

Take a walk up the stairs and let them show you their new classroom. Give the children the opportunity to be the leader and teach you all about the new classroom, materials or a new rule. Walk through the front door or observe older friends during car line together.

  1. Acknowledge their feelings and listen to their thoughts and worries. We often don’t experience just one emotion around new experiences and they are all normal and okay! Remember to acknowledge, not fix.

Let them know you understand: I know it can be sad to say goodbye to your teacher and friends.  Share a time you felt nervous at doing something new. Children love to hear about adult feelings and know that you have different feelings too!

  1. Be encouraging and show confidence that they will be okay! Children take their cues from adults so our ability to manage our emotions and stay calm and positive is important.

A calming hand on a shoulder, practicing three deep breaths together to be calm, noticing our own body and actively trying to relax, and being consistent with the drop-off will model calm, consistency and confidence for your child.

  1. Consider a routine or ritual that can support a positive drop off.

Listen or sing the same song daily or have a special goodbye high-five upon arrival. Allow these moments to help cue to children that it is time to say goodbye.

  1. Make a calendar together that shows what day school starts.

Children can mark off the days with X’s or stickers to feel prepared and know what to expect.

  1. Share a plan for after school or when you get home so that your child can predict the end of the day. Knowing that they will have special time with you will allow children to feel safe and secure, to explore, and work hard at school.

Have a special after school activity planned on the first day like walking to the park, eating a favorite meal together or getting in PJs right after school to relax and watch a movie.

  1. Take time for quiet time or special moments and extra hugs leading up to the new school year and as they adjust to their new routine and schedule.

Plan for a fun snack together outside or listen to calming music in the car ride home.

  1. Anticipate that there will be upsets and tiredness. Transitions are hard for everyone. Young children are working hard to regulate and focus to meet the expectations of their new classrooms and get to know the rules. This takes a lot of work and often results in upsets and tiredness at home. Be patient and flexible.

Just like we may want to come home and relax on the couch after a hard day, children may need a little more time, support, and understanding to manage expectations and emotions they are experiencing during big transitions. Offer help to complete a task rather than another verbal reminder. Allow extra time to get ready in the morning or to get ready for bed. Slowing down and supporting will allow for a positive, peaceful transition for all.

  1. Focus on familiar routines and consistency at home. Stick to a morning and bedtime routine as best as you can (even if you have been able to move away from it over the summer or as they got bigger). Routine and rituals provide children with a sense of stability and safety so they can go out and explore their world with confidence!

Bring back that favorite book and read it nightly or add in time where each family member shares a feeling or experience from their day over dinner or before bed.

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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Preparing a Teacher to Work With Your Child With Autism

Beginning a new school year with any child can be harrowing for parents! You may wonder, “Will my child get the support that he needs?” or “How will I communicate with her teacher?” andBlog-Autism-and-Teachers-Main-Landscape “What can I do as a parent to reinforce what is happening in the classroom?” These questions and worries can be even greater when the child in question has a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. The first step in starting any school year is to think proactively and approach your child’s classroom teacher prior to beginning the year!

Below are some tips for having a fun and successful year for you and your child with autism:

  • Communication – Communication is key! It is vital to communicate with your child’s teacher before starting school. Letting the teacher know all about your child and his or her strengths will help the teacher provide the best care in the school setting.  Additionally, set up means to communicate in an ongoing manner with your child’s teacher—this could be email, notes in your child’s backpack, or even a notebook that the child writes in themselves outlining their day!
  • Reinforcement – Give the teacher a list of things that are motivating to your child that the teacher can incorporate into your child’s day, and keep him or her learning!
  • Triggers – Letting the teacher know what can be triggering to your child will help avoid potential problematic behaviors in the classroom. This allows school staff to be proactive about managing potential challenging behavior.
  • Calming strategies – Let the teacher know what works best for calming your child down if he or she becomes upset.

All in all, STAY POSITIVE and BE PATIENT! Remember that the beginning of the school year is a time of getting comfortable and establishing routines…for kids and adults alike!

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, and Hinsdale. 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 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.

Helping Your Anxious Child Return to School

With the summer months winding down, and the back to school sales in full force, it’s probably time for Blog-Anxious-Back-to-School-Main-Landscapeyou and your child to start the annual transition from summer camp to school! For many children, this transition is filled with excitement and happiness. For others, the worry monster might be just around the corner. Children might demonstrate tearfulness, tantrums, and frustration due to their anxiety about school.

Below are a couple suggestions to help you and your anxious child get through the first few days back at school:

Create a School Day Routine

The structure of the school day might look a lot different than your child’s summer schedule.  Before school begins:

  • Create a morning routine with a timeline of activities your child will need to accomplish. Depending on your child’s level of independence, think about how much supervision your child will need for each task.
  • Remember to adjust your child’s wake up time to fit the school day schedule if it had changed during the summer. Helping your child create this routine prior to the first day of school will allow your child to understand what is expected and can lead to lower levels of worry.

Transitional Object

Separation from parents in the first few days of school can be traumatic. For younger children, a handful of difficult drop offs is age-appropriate and should decrease over time as your child acclimates to this new routine. One way to support your child through this transition can be through allowing them to bring something to school that reminds them of mom and dad. Transitional objects should be small and minimally distracting in class. A special key chain, small plush toy, or laminated picture of the family can be used for this. Remind your child to hold or look at these objects if they are feeling worried or missing home.

If you notice that your child is having a harder than expected time, their functioning in school is being impacted, or their anxiety about school is not subsiding, reach out for additional support.

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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Transitioning from the Summer Months to the Academic School Year

Being home with my family last week meant spending a day with my 7-year old niece. I got to spend a hazy summer day snuggling and watching the latest Disney movies, playing with dolls, and completing an imaginative writing story. I would say my day was spent very well- a quintessential summer day!

As you sit and reminisce about the busy, sun soaked, laughter filled days, it is hard to imagine that summer is almost over. Many teachers are converting their summer schedules into school schedules and planning for the return of excited children.

You, as a parent, can also prepare yourself and your children for the return to school with these suggestions:

  1. Create a routine: Summer days can be filled with play dates, outings to local events, or dayTransition from Summer to School camp. However, setting your child up with a schedule for a month to two-weeks prior to the first day of school can be beneficial to establish responsibilities and a sense of time. Reset bed times and establish meal times that would mimic the meal times of the school year. Practice these routines on the weekends as well. Responsibilities that mimic “homework time” should be implemented in the evening routine- a simple writing task, quiet reading time, or a few worksheets to complete. (education.com provides a multitude of academic worksheets for all academic grades)
  2. Try to discourage day naps: Napping in the day, especially after school, can result in the establishment of inefficient sleep patterns. Typically, naps are phased out of the daily routine by the age of 5. Napping after school disrupts the nighttime routine by allowing a child to push off her fatigue, leading to alertness at inappropriate hours of the night. Establish a sleep/wake cycle prior to the start of school. This can also be encouraged with the simultaneous use of responsibilities and homework time that comes with a school year routine.
  3. For the first time first-grader: First grade is a lot of firsts! It is, in some cases, the start of a full day school schedule that is 5 days a week. It is also the first time you are leaving your child for such an extended period of time. If your child seems to experiencing “first day jitters”, validate them and establish a game-plan to address these concerns:

Create a special good-bye ritual. It can be a special hand shake, an extra tight hug, or a cool phrase. The good-bye ritual can become a part of the routine, signaling that it is ok to say bye to you and transition into school.

-Allow plenty of time to eat breakfast and get dressed. A time constraint with getting ready can lead to emotional distress. If your child requires an extra 5 minutes for socks, allow him this time, whether it be to wake up five minutes earlier or reduce “free time” in the morning.

-Allow your child to pick what he/she wants to wear to school. That little bit of independence in their day can provide essential learning opportunities for roles and responsibilities. Also, her attire should make her feel cool and special!

  1. Set-up a visit day: Do a trial run of the school atmosphere prior to the first day of school. This is a great opportunity to become familiar with the classroom, learn how to navigate to the gym, library or bathroom, and personalize your child’s cubby space/locker.
  2. Keep new hobbies going: Summer is an opportune time for a child to establish new likes and hobbies. Continue to encourage learning and refinement of newly learned skills through after school clubs, extra classes or community resources.

As much as your child loved summer vacation, she will love returning to school to see her friends on a daily basis. Help to build this excitement with discussion of what to expect at school this coming year and a fun count down!

Click here for tips on how to beat the back to school blues!

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!

 

prepping for a positive school year

Prep Your Child for a Positive School Year

As summer comes to a close, so does the unstructured leisure time and easy living associated with this 3 month break from the norm. Going back to school means going back to a routine and reaffirming expectations for academics, behavior, and overall family standards. Like with any major transition, it will be important to pay mind to the alteration in daily living in advance.  Here are 3 helpful tips to ease this transition and to prepare your child for a positive school year.

3 Tips to Prep Your Child for a Positive School Year:

    1. Begin school bed-time and wake-up time up to a week prior to the beginning of school. If you missed this window, start to establish the school bedtime as soon as possible.  This does not mean your child will fall asleep right away at this new bedtime, but as long as he gets in the groove of getting into bed earlier to wind down, even if he lays there, it will help prepare him for the upcoming transition for school. This is the same with the morning time routine. Even if your child wakes up from an alarm at 6 a.m. and just lays around, this can serve to reset the body.
    2. Plan for any upcoming changes. Going back to school is a major change in it’s own right.  If your child is starting at a new school, plan ahead by arranging a tour of the unfamiliar setting. Talk to the school to see when you can set up this preliminary visit and if possible, ask to set up a meet and greet with his new teacher. This exchange can facilitate positive feelings about starting the new year and reduce any feelings of anxiety.
    3. Arrange a family meeting. Sitting down with your child before the start of the school year to iron out weekly routines and expectations can help provide a framework for what will be tolerable vs. intolerable behaviors during the school year. To prevent future arguments about the frequency of computer/technology time, homework routines, and social plans during the week, collaborate as a family about what can be expected. For instance, if it is required that all homework is completed before only 1 hour allotment of computer time, the child can be aware of the expectation and make positive choices to earn this reward. If the child does not complete all work before bedtime, the child may not be eligible for computer time that evening but potentially can earn extra time over the weekend as a reward. Communicating about expectations of behavior can anticipate future challenges and provide solutions to problems prior to them arising.

Taking the time to establish routines and expectations at the start of the school year will help set up your child for a great year.  For more on starting the school year right, click here to read about establishing a homework routine for school success.





prep your child's teacher to help your child with ADHD

How to Prep Your Child’s Teacher to Work with an ADHD Diagnosis

To start the school year out right for your child with and ADHD (or other) diagnosis, it is important to establish a close collaboration between you, your child’s teacher, any professionals of the treatment team, and your child!  Here is how you can prepare your child’s teacher to best understand your child’s needs to get off to a great start this academic year.

10 tips to prepare your child’s teacher to best help your child with an ADHD diagnosis:

1. Request to set up a meeting at the start of school year.

2. Get an idea of what your child’s teacher knows about ADHD and his general attitude towards ADHD. Some teachers may be more or less informed about ADHD, as research and diagnostic criteria has changed quite a bit over the years.
3. Inform the teacher of your child’s ADHD diagnosis (or other diagnosis), if he is on any medication or if you chose an alternative treatment method.

4. Find out what the culture of the classroom is like:

  • Structure: Is the daily schedule posted?  Does the teacher request frequent “brain breaks” during the day?
  • How does she describe her teaching style?
  • Rules & Expectations: Are there visual reminders posted around the room? What is the reward system? Incentives? Token System?  Nature of the homework assignments? Seating arrangements?
  • Can your child sit facing the front and close to the teacher?

5. Discuss the best way to contact one another (i.e. via phone or email).
6. Discuss if any notes home or behavioral report cards are necessary or how often?
7. Pass along any recommendations to your child’s teacher that she can implement that you have found helpful  for your child.

Examples:

  • “Jake does well when given one command at a time versus following multiple steps at once.”
  • “At home, we have found that having Jessica repeat back directions or rules, helps her to be more accountable.”
  •  “We use the token system at home and Sam seems to do well with it when we are consistent.”

8. Be supportive and open.

  • Assist the teacher in any way by being supportive and open to suggestions he or she may have.
  • Let the teacher know you want to work as team to make it a successful year for everyone.

9. Offer Praise and appreciation: A positive attitude with your child’s teacher creates a stronger relationship with all involved!

10. Request to set up a follow-up meeting to check-in : This could be half-way through the school year or sooner depending on the needs of your child.

Click here to read about self-regulating strategies to help children with ADHD.

5 Tips to Keep Your Child’s Backpack Organized

Ever wonder how your child’s backpack goes from looking like it belongs in a museum exhibit on the first day of school, to looking like there was an explosion of school supplies, snacks and nick-knacks thrown together a few weeks later?  Read on for 5 tips to help your child keep his backpack organized throughout the school year.

5 Tips to Keep Your Child’s Backpack Organized:

  1. Have a designated place for everything.  Work out a system with your child at the beginning of the year (or whenever you realize that the current system is not working), and designate a spot for all materials.  This may mean putting all writing utensils in a plastic box or a carrying case, having different colored folders or using a binder system.  Make sure you have a place for the odds and ends too, such as scissors, rulers, and informational papers to bring home to mom and dad. Read more

4 Back-to-School Resolutions to Promote Speech and Language Skills

With a new school year starting, now is the perfect time to promote and encourage your child’s speech and language skills! Here are some helpful tips in order to set your child up for the greatest success this school year.

4 Back-to-School Speech and Language Resolutions:

  1. Easy Voice: Avoid using a harsh voice, yelling, and shouting.  This can help both parents and children maintain a healthy vocal quality. Modeling your own “easy voice” can encourage your child to keep his voice healthy too!
  2. Build Vocabulary: Targeting and explaining new “back-to-school” words can help to improve your child’s vocabulary. Increased exposure to novel words will reinforce these additions to your child’s vocabulary and will encourage usage.
  3. Read Aloud: Reading aloud to your child is extremely beneficial for language development. When reading stories, emphasizing and reinforcing new words will enhance vocabulary skills, and asking questions while reading encourages understanding. If age appropriate, ask your child to retell the story!
  4. Ask Questions: Talk with your child about the events of his day. Learn what activities occurred in the classroom, in the lunchroom, and at recess. Monitor for sentence structure and grammar, and emphasize accurate productions. For example, if your child says, “I goed to art,” respond with, “You went to art? How was it?” Read more

Conquer the Back-to-School Blues

Summer is winding down, and school is fast approaching.  While this time of year brings excitement, it also triggers stressors in parents and children alike. Children wonder so many things: What classroom will they be in? Who will be in their class? How will their teacher handle their idiosyncrasies? Parents also have their own set of questions regarding their children’s return to school. Follow the tips below to help ease the whole family into the new routine of school and to help everyone conquer the back-to-school blues.

Steps to Conquer the Back-to-School Blues:

  • List the positives of each possible classroom assignment and teacher. The mere mention of your child’s classroom placement may cause him, and you as parents, concern. Instead of worrying about it, come up with a list with your child about the positives of each classroom option. Be creative and help your child explore the small (but potentially positive) details of being in every classroom available to him. For example, one classroom may be closer to the washroom, or one might have a door to the playground. Listing the positives of each potential teacher/teacher’s aide is also recommended. This can help put you and your child at ease by recognizing that there are great things about any classroom possibility.
  • Remember that there are opportunities to see friends outside of the classroom. When the class list is posted and you and your child find out that he may not have many friends in his classroom, remind him that he can see his friends before and after school, at lunch, at recess, and in elective-type classes.  Also, if there are children of concern in your child’s classroom, it is also helpful to remember that there will be some opportunities throughout the day to mingle with other kids. Listing the positives of some, or all, of the kids in your child’s class is also recommended here. This will prepare your child for the school year and for how he can get along with the peers in his classroom. Read more

Strategies For Smooth Sailing Into Middle School

We are at that time of year-school supply lists, the cooling down of summer, and the fall wardrobe advertisements can only mean one thing: it is “back to school” time! Transitioning back to school can seem overwhelming as it is, but the shift Middle School Boy On Near Lockersfrom elementary to middle school can create unique changes and challenges for students and parents. Knowing what changes to expect, anticipating the challenges they may bring, and brainstorming strategies to address the transition can help children sail smoothly into their middle school years!

Below are some common middle school transition challenges and strategies for smooth sailing.

Middle School Schedule Changes:

One of the biggest schedule changes is the frequent transitioning from class to class during the school day. Transitioning from a summer to school schedule is challenging enough, but adding a school schedule that is completely new can be overwhelming. Your child will experience multiple firsts: first time taking multiple classes; meeting multiple teachers; and navigating between classrooms. These firsts can understandably create anxiety about being on time, going to the right class, and remembering which teacher teaches what! Since starting middle school means starting a new school entirely, another schedule change to anticipate is a different start and end time than what your child is used to.

Middle School Transition Strategies:

  • Talk to your child about her new school schedule for a couple of weeks beforehand so she knows what to expect on the first day.
  • If possible, schedule a visit with the school to familiarize your child with the building and classrooms. Take advantage of new student orientations, and find out where schedules are distributed before school starts. Then, help your child practice going from class to class.
  • Review with your child when her new school will start and end. Listen to any concerns and help come up with a plan to address them. For example, if your child is nervous about getting up on time for an earlier start time, brainstorm ways to tweak bedtime and morning routines so that your child can feel well-rested and ready for school in the morning.

Middle School Peers:

In middle school, your child is likely to see and meet children in her class that attended different elementary schools. This change can create anxieties about whether she will know students in her classes, have friends to eat lunch with, maintain old friendships, or meet new ones. Additionally, new middle schoolers make the transition from being “big fish in a little pond” in their elementary schools to “little fish in a big pond.” Shifting from being the oldest to the youngest students in school can be scary, and your child may have fears about these unknown upperclassmen.

Middle School “Friend” Strategies:

  • Acknowledge the big change in peers. Listen to your child’s fears, concerns, anxieties, and excitements and validate your child’s feelings as normal and okay.
  • Use a buddy system on the first day. Plan for your child to compare schedules with a friend and meet at school on the first day to go through their day together.
  • “Once school starts, create a space for your child to talk openly about her social experiences and listen to your child for any hints of bullying.

Classes and Homework Load:

One of the challenges I hear most is the homework load increase from elementary to middle school. Students have homework from multiple classes with varying due dates, which can create organizational difficulties. They may feel anxious about keeping track of assignments and due dates and feel overwhelmed by the increased work load.

Middle School Homework Strategies:

  • Help organize your child’s school work by creating one binder or multiple binders with a different divider for each class.
  • Use color-coded folders (ex. Blue for science homework, red for math homework, etc) so your child can transport her homework to and from school and keep track of her assignments.
  • Use a planner to write down which classes have assignments due on specific dates. You can teach your child how to use her planner before school starts so that she is not overwhelmed when teachers announce assignments.
  • Check in with your child about homework to see the areas in which your child may struggle. If your child is experiencing difficulties, reach out to teachers about peer tutoring, after-school help, or homework club.

Extra-curricular Activities:

Compared to elementary school, middle school offers many more opportunities to engage in various activities-community service, social clubs, academic clubs, and sports during and after school. These new activities can be very exciting but can also create some scheduling challenges. With an increased homework load, incorporating every activity your child is interested in may interfere with homework, already existing activities, and his sleep and rest!

Middle School Extra-Curricular Activity Strategies:

  • Encourage your child to go to informational meetings to learn about opportunities. You can talk to your child about which activities she is most excited about and help her make a list to prioritize.
  • Flexibility is key-“Why don’t we try soccer and community service club and see how you feel in a few weeks? If we need to take something out or add something, we can.”
  • Creating a visual schedule with your child is a fun way to help her stay organized and accountable for her schedule.

Anticipating the changes and potential challenges that come with middle school can help parents and children work together to ensure a smooth transition!

Please let us know, what transition strategies have you used that have worked?

*North Shore Pediatric Therapy, Inc. (NSPT) intends for responses to the blogs to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; all content and answers to questions should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s). Questions submitted to this blog are not guaranteed to receive responses. No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by NSPT to people submitting questions. Always consult with your health professional first before initiating or changing any aspect of your treatment regimen.