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10 Steps to Diagnosing A Learning Disability

If your child has difficulty with reading, writing, math or other school learning-related BlogLearningDisabilityDiagnosis-Main-Landscapetasks, this does not necessarily mean that they have a learning disability. Lots of children struggle at times with school.

Common signs of a learning disability:

  • Difficulty with reading, writing or math skills
  • Short attention span or difficulty staying on task (easily distracted)
  • Difficulty with memory
  • Trouble following directions
  • Poor hand-eye coordination
  • Difficulty with time management
  • Problems staying organized
  • Inability to discriminate between or among letters, numerals, or sounds
  • Difficulty with paying attention
  • Inconsistent school performance

Each learning disability has its own signs and not every person with a particular disability will have all of the signs. These signs alone are not enough to diagnose a learning disability, so a professional assessment is necessary to diagnose a learning disability.

If some of these symptoms sound familiar, below are 10 steps to take:

  1. Talk to your child about the areas they are struggling in order to understand the symptoms.
  2. Provide empathy and emotional support for your child. Let them know that lots of people struggle at times with school related tasks.
  3. Get specific feedback from teachers regarding problem areas or grades.
  4. Set up an initial intake session with a Psychologist/Neuropsychologist to discuss symptoms and background information.
  5. Have the child tested in specific areas:
    1. Intellectual/IQ
    2. Achievement/Academic
    3. Language/Communication
    4. Memory
    5. Attention
    6. Visual/Motor
    7. Problem Solving
    8. Social, Emotional, Behavioral
  6. Get feedback from teachers with specific forms regarding behaviors
  7. Discuss with Psychologist/Neuropsychologist the results of the testing and recommendations.
  8. Talk to the child’s school about accommodations and services.
  9. Follow up with teachers about effectiveness and gains of accommodations.
  10. Follow up Neuropsychological testing in 6 months to 1 years’ time.

References:

https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/learning/conditioninfo/Pages/symptoms.aspx

http://ldaamerica.org/symptoms-of-learning-disabilities

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!

Finding a Gift that Has Therapeutic Value

When buying presents for kids these days, it may be difficult to find a toy or game in which the value will last longer than the amount ofscience project time it takes to unwrap it. It can also be challenging to find a gift that will remain valuable throughout any of the “fads” and “trends.” With that said, below are some gift ideas that are sure to please your kids, keep them engaged as well as have added therapeutic value:

Board Games With A Therapeutic Value:

  • Hulabaloo is a game that incorporates auditory processing, visual scanning, following directions, gross motor skills and motor planning. It’s great for pre-school and early elementary-aged children and can be played with one child or a group.
  • Cat and the Hat-I Can Do That is a game that incorporates sequencing skills, following directions, gross motor skills and motor planning. This game can be played with children of all ages as it offers motor challenges that involve props.

Art Supplies With A Therapeutic Value:

  • Color by number activities are excellent for children that need to modify their fine motor skills, visual motor and executive functioning skills (planning, initiation, attention and organizing). This is a way to provide more structure to a coloring task as well as adding expectations.
  • Craft projects, such as beading kits, painting and pre-made wooden structures (mailbox, picture frames, tool boxes, etc). These can promote executive functioning skills, such as following written directions, planning, initiation, sequencing, and organization as well as fine motor skills. These activities can also be modified to incorporate sensory experiences.
  • Lite Brite is an activity that promotes fine motor skill development as well as attention, sequencing and organization. This activity may also be motivating as children are able to witness the progression of the design as it takes shape. This will allow for longer engagement in the activity.
  • Science Experiments/Kits are great gifts for children of all ages as they cover so various therapeutic areas. Activity kits, such a building a volcano, require many executive functioning skills and they often incorporate sensory components and fine motor skills that are both intriguing as well as interesting to many children.

Puzzles and Puzzle books With A Therapeutic Value:

  • Jigsaw puzzles are a great way to incorporate fine motor, visual motor and visual perceptual skills into a fun activity for children of any age. For older children, puzzles with 3-D images can increase the difficulty.
  • Word Searches and other similar puzzles in a puzzle book require many executive functioning skills, including problem-solving, sequencing and organization of thoughts and information. Many of these puzzles also incorporate visual skills, such as visual scanning. These books can be found for children as young as kindergarten through adulthood.

These are just a few gift ideas for children that may offer therapeutic value as well as the “fun factor.” When considering a gift for a specific child, think about their interests, but also keep in mind of the activities or experiences that they generally avoid as these are often the most challenging for them and the activities they need to pay attention to most. By selecting a game that incorporates challenging experiences as well as skills, you will be buying a gift that both the child and parents will enjoy.

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How to Maximize a Playdate for a Child with Speech Delays | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s webisode, a pediatric speech pathologist explains ways to help a child with speech delays play well with others. She provides useful strategies to encourage communications and respect between the children. For speech game ideas read our blog “5 Board Games That Promote Speech-Language Skills

  • The right timing for a playdate
  • How to introduce a speech delayed child to a regular child
  • What signs to look out for as the playdate progresses

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 Megan Grant, a Pediatric Speech
and Language Pathologist. Megan, can you give our viewers some tips on how
to maximize a play date with a child with delayed speech?

Megan: Sure. A play date for a child with delayed speech and language
skills isn’t going to look that much different than that of a play date for
a child with typically developing skills. However, there are some key
things to keep in mind. Make sure that you time it right. Make sure that
the play date is scheduled after naptime and after mealtime, so that the
kids are well rested, their bellies are fully and they are ready to play
and interact with each other.

Also you want to make sure to keep it brief. Sometimes, 45 minutes to an
hour is only what the kids will tolerate in the beginning, so don’t worry
that the play date should be three or four hours at a time. You definitely
need to make sure that you keep it short, especially in the beginning. Kids
will work up that way. Also, introduce a friend who’s familiar to your
child. That’s definitely going to be a key as well. Someone who is from
music class or from school is going to be more accustomed to interacting
with your child, and your child is likely going to be able to interact with
them much better than if you introduce someone who is entirely new to them.

When you do have a child who has delayed speech and language, you can pre-
teach the other child and say, “You know, Billy’s still learning how to
talk.” And let them know that that’s OK. Sometimes, kids are very
receptive and they pick up very easily on the nuances of other children, so
that’s definitely going to help as well. Keep in mind that you are going to
have to provide models, more so than with kids who are typically
developing. Kids who have delayed speech and language aren’t necessarily
going to initiate and maintain play as easily, so you’re going to have to
jump in there and let them resolve some conflicts, but definitely give them
the support that they’re going to need. And just have fun. Watch for signs
of frustration. If your child starts to break down, you definitely want to
jump in there and you can feel free to end the play date sooner than later.

Robyn: All right. Well, thank you so much, Megan, and thank you to our
viewers. And 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.

How to Determine if a Child Has Executive Functioning Difficulties | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, a pediatric neuropsychologist explains ways to tell if a child struggles with executive functioning.  Click here to download a FREE checklist on Executive Functioning Signs by age!

In this video you will learn:

  • What factors the child struggles with daily
  • How executive functioning issues start at home
  • What a child needs help with when they suffer from executive functioning

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 today I’m sitting here with Dr. Greg Stasi, a Pediatric
Neuropsychologist. Doctor, can you give us some tips on how to identify if
a child needs help with executive functioning?

Dr. Greg: Of course. When we talk about executive functioning, we’re
talking about a child who struggles with organization, initiation on tasks,
problem solving, cognitive flexibility. This is a child where the morning
routine is going to be extremely difficult. They can’t follow through on
tasks. The parent has to follow through constantly to get them out the door
in the morning. It’s a child who starts projects at the last minute,
Sunday evening, when a project is due Monday morning. If we’re seeing the
child not be able to develop strategies on how to complete homework
assignments and if the child gets frustrated easily, those are all symptoms
and characteristics of what we’d expect in a child with an executive
functioning issue.

Robyn: All right. Well, thank you so much, and thank you to our viewers.
And 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.

10 Tips to Help your Middle Schooler or Teen Sit Still During a Test.

Test taking in middle school can be stressful for your child and he/she may find it difficult to sit still throughout the duration of the test. There are a number of different strategies that you can teach and provide your child to help organize his/her body for improved focus during a test.

 10 Tips To Help a Child Sit Still During a Test:

1. Eat well and sleep well on the days leaving up to the test: This will ensure the body and brain are well nourished on the day of the test.bored boy taking a test

2. Work out before the test: Getting exercise and activity can help the body and mind to focus and organize for a day’s work, particularly on testing day.

3. Take deep breaths: Prior to test day, review deep breathing techniques with your child so that he/she can exercise the deep breaths during the test. Deep breaths will help calm your child and help him/her focus.

4. Drink from water bottle: Encourage your child to keep a water bottle with a straw on his/her desk during the test. Have him/her take sips from it when he/she begins to feel antsy during the exam.

5. Fidget tools: Small items such as stress balls, rubber bands or bean balloons can be manipulated with the hands while seated at the desk during the test. .

6. ChewEase pencil toppers: An alternative to a fidget tool, the chewy pencil topper can help direct your child’s extra energy during the exam and help with concentration.

7. Wall pushes: Have your child take a break from the test to do wall pushes. Similar to push ups on the floor, place hands shoulder width apart at shoulder level on the wall and keep the back straight. Do 10 wall pushes by bending elbows and bringing the nose to the wall, while keeping the back and hips in line.

8. Use a timer or a stopwatch: This will help your child time him/herself throughout the test and know how to pace him/herself during the exam period.

9. Chair push ups during the test: Place hands on either side of the chair near the hips. Push through the hands and shoulders to lift bottom up off of chair. Do 10 repetitions.

10. Sit on large exercise ball/move-n-sit cushion: Sitting on a therapy ball or move-n-sit cushion will provide your child with controlled movement and vestibular input while seated during the test. This will aide in your child’s focus without him/her needing to get up out of the desk.

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Teaching Your Child To Care

Teaching your child to care for others is an important role that each and every parentgirl caring for friend carries.

Often, people assume that compassion is a born instinct, but it can also be taught. Yes, all people are born with some level of a “caring gene”, just as Babe Ruth was born with a talent to play baseball. However, if Babe Ruth was never introduced to baseball, never taught the rules of the game, never tried to play, then what good would his natural talent have been? Everybody can be taught to feel for others; you just have to start teaching them while they are young and continue teaching them by example!

Here Are Some Tips to Help Your Child Learn To Be More Compassionate:

Start Young

  • Start teaching your child to care for others as soon as they are able to communicate.During play-time, role-play with your baby on dolls. Show them how to hold, hug and care for the doll. Even pretend the doll got hurt and show your baby how to comfort the doll. Playing with your child and a doctor’s kit is another great way to show your child to care for others and how one person makes another feel better.
  • It’s also important to teach your child in the moment. When at the playground or on a play-date and your toddler’s friend falls down or gets hurt, bring it to your toddler’s attention. You can say to your toddler: “Oh no, Joey got hurt, and is very sad. I think it would make him feel better if you gave him a hug”. This will ensure that when your child is in preschool, he or she will more likely be the kid who helps his or her friends instead of running past them when they get hurt.
  • Just as teaching your children to care for those who are hurt physically, it’s equally important to teach your child to be aware of those who get hurt emotionally. Let your child know that it is not okay to hurt other’s feelings. This will prove to be vital when your child is in grade school and Bullying begins.

Lead by Example

  • Parents are the first teacher a child ever has. Everything a parent does, their child is watching, taking notes and learning from. Show your child how to be compassionate. When you see a homeless person on the street, stop and give him/her some spare change. Afterward, explain to your child why you helped that person. How there are people out there less fortunate. Let your child know that there are children who may not have as many toys as your child. Ask your child how it would make them feel to not have all the things he/she has.
  • Often, people get frustrated when they have to pull over to let an ambulance or fire-truck pass by because it delays them to their destination. Instead of getting irritated, say out loud how you hope the ambulance or firemen get there in time to help those in trouble.

Find Local Places to Visit

  • Along with leading by example, you can help your child become caring and compassionate by actually working with those in need. Many nursing homes have programs where you can bring children to come and talk to residents.
  • You can also take your child to a soup kitchen to help serve people in need. Let your child feel good about helping others!
  • Have your child bring a bag of toys to a children’s home to give to less fortunate children. There are plenty of websites that offer information on places and ways you and your child can help. Below are a couple of examples:

 http://www.redcross.org/volunteertime/ and http://www.volunteermatch.org/

So go ahead, turn off your T.V. and video games and go out with your child into the world to make a difference!

I welcome any comments on more opportunities for children to “care”!

Stranger Danger: Teaching Your Children to be Safe

Teaching children about “stranger danger” is about teaching the possible dangers they may face as they are out in the world. But, this is not as simple as saying, “Don’t talk to strangers.” I tell children that it is safe to talk to strangers when they are with a grownup they know (such as when a child is with Mom at the Stranger at parkgrocery store and the nice older woman asks what her name is).

We need to teach our children to be functionally weary of strangers. It’s important that your children feel confident rather than fearful. Having information will help them know what to do rather than being afraid if a stranger approaches them.

 

Educating children on good vs. bad strangers

Kids should be taught that not all people they don’t know are dangerous. They need to know the difference between “good strangers” and “bad strangers”. They should know that there really are more good people than bad. Sometimes, kids may need to approach a stranger for help. They may get lost in a store and need help finding you. Teach your children about the best possible stranger to approach for help.

When in public, a good rule of thumb is to teach children to ask an employee (who is easily identified by a uniform or name badge). If your child cannot find an employee, or is not lost in a store, he is better off approaching a woman for help. Although female predators exist, they are less common than male predators. Also, approaching a mom with children is usually a good bet.

Ploys by Predators and What to Do

Some strangers can be persuasive. Tell your children that adults don’t usually need help from a child. It makes more sense for them to ask another adult for directions, finding a lost pet, etc. Children should be taught to never go anywhere with an adult they don’t know.

Predators can be sneaky. They may tell your child that he is a friend of yours and you sent him to pick up your child. Or, the predator may tell your child that you have been injured or are sick and the child has to come with the predator to come see you.

What to tell your child if you can’t pick him up:

  • Explain to your child that you will never send anyone he doesn’t know to pick him up. Tell him if anyone says otherwise, the person is lying and he should get away from the stranger as fast as he can.
  • If you don’t have a group of trusted people who could pick up your child in an emergency, choose a password that you will give to the person picking up your child. The password should be something important to your family that would be difficult for a stranger to guess.
  • Tell your child never to go with anyone who doesn’t know the password and change the password after each use.

9 Stranger Danger Tips to Teach Your Children

1. Know your name, address, and phone number (this will help if the child needs help from the police to get home or contact you).

2. Never walk anywhere alone (this is great for older kids too).

3. Trust your instincts. If you feel you are being followed or something is not right, find help right away.

4. If a stranger approaches you, you do not have to speak to him.

5. Never approach a stranger in a motor vehicle. Just keep walking.

6. Do not accept candy or other “presents” from a stranger.

7. Never walk off with a stranger no matter what!

8. If someone is following you, try to remember the license plate of the vehicle and tell a trusted adult right away.

9. If a stranger grabs you, do anything you can to stop him from pulling you away or dragging you into his car. Drop to the ground, kick, hit, bite, and scream. Get the attention of others who can help you. Scream out, “This is not my dad,” or “this is not my mom!”

 

*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.

Helping Your Child Plan and Organize Their Daily Lives

The start of school brings many changes with children’s daily lives. Children must be able to transition between subjects, organizing their work, sitting at home, and independently taking the initiative to do their homework and monitor their own productivity. These above behaviors all fall under the label of “executive functioning.”

homework with mom and daughterMany children are able to complete these tasks and behaviors independently; however, a large portion of children also struggle with one or more of the behaviors and tasks. As a result, many children benefit from strategies to help develop their organization, planning, problem solving, time management, and monitoring of their work.

Parents vs. Children on Homework Assignments

As a psychologist, I often have parents inform me about constant battles that they have with their children to complete daily homework assignments. Specifically, parents often report to me that their children will do anything but start their homework (surfing the internet, texting friends from their cell phones, or watching television/playing video games).

Two major executive functioning tasks are involved with the child’s ability to complete daily homework: Initiation of action and time management. Children who demonstrate issues with their ability to complete daily homework benefit from strategies and interventions that target their ability to start and complete their work in a timely fashion.

Tips to help children complete daily homework:

  • Developing a daily “Need to” (homework, chores) and “Want to” (baseball practice, dance lessons, video game time) list of tasks
  • Prioritizing the list with estimated time requirements for each task
  • Verbally and physically prompting your child before starting each task by (e.g., “John, what is the next thing we should do?” while tapping him on the shoulder)
  • Positively reinforcing all self-initiating tasks by giving praise when your child starts a project on his/her own

Dealing With Your Child’s Forgetfulness About Assignments

Another major area of concern I hear from parents is that although their children are able to actually complete the work, they struggle with their organizational skills and will either forget about the assignments or lose the work between home and school. As a result of the difficulties with organization, all children benefit from strategies to improve this area of functioning.

Strategies that have proven to be effective with the development of a child’s organization include:

  • Structuring and scheduling designated ‘study time’ as part of your child’s daily routine.
  • Completing homework in a central location away from distracters including television, computer, telephone, and other people who might be disruptive.
  • Creating time-lines for long-term projects, breaking tasks down into basic elements with separate due dates for each task.
  • Discussing homework expectations with their teacher to determine the recommended amount of study time.

With the start of school, we want to help children be as organized as possible and ready to complete daily homework in a timely fashion. Following the above strategies and developing some of your own will ensure that your child will be more organized and less stressed!

Francis Parker, Latin, University of Chicago Lab, Chicago City Day, Anshe Emmet, Sacred Heart or Somewhere Else? Which school is best for my child?

How do I pick the best school for my child and what if my child has special needs?

IBack To School Chalkboardf you have a baby and you live in a big city like Chicago, then soon enough you will be thinking, “Oh boy, what activities do I sign him up for? Where do I register for preschool? When? Is today too late?”. For some parents, you will have now discovered your child also has some learning or attention need. Now, which school is best?

Consider the following when deciding where to send your children to school:

  •  There are always the suburbs, but keep in mind, you will still need to do a lot of research on which is best because each suburb has something different to offer.
  • Make a list of what is important to you in a school. One may be very competitive, one may be less so, one may be in a better neighborhood, one may go all the way up to high school, and one may stop at eighth grade. If you decide which characteristics are most important, you can narrow down your list.
  • If you child needs services, will the school have them? What do they look like? Remember, you will still need to supplement school services but you do need the support.
  •  How competitive do you want the school to be and in which areas? One may be more arts based while another may place high importance on math and science.
  • What kind of friends do you want your child to have? Each school has a different sort of parent body, different values taught to children, etc.
  • If you need financial aid, will they have it? How does the application process work to get in and to get assistance?

Enjoy the process and start very early. Talk to and seek advice from many people but in the end base your decision on who you and your family really are and who you hope your children will turn out to be.

Please feel free to leave a comment below with your own experience in choosing a school!

Using iPad and iPhone Apps to Promote Speech and Language Development

As we all know, technology has become a part of our daily lives.  iPad and iPhone application developers have createdChild with iPad both motivating and meaningful applications that target many of the areas within the speech and language discipline.  The apps are multisensory; they tap into the senses of sight, sound and touch. The high resolution graphics used in the apps are visually appealing to all children. While there are TONS of applications out there, here are a few apps that can be used to improve and/or maintain vocabulary, articulation, pragmatic and language skills.  

iPhone and iPad Apps To Help Develop Vocabulary:

App Name

Appropriate Age

Description Benefits of the App
Clean Up: Category Sorting (free)

 Any

Game

Helps children make associations and strengthen categories and sorting skills

Preschool memory match (free)

3-5

3 different levels (easy, medium, hard) and 5 categories to choose from including: Transportation, Musical Instruments, Animals/Bugs, Food, and Objects

Good for very basic vocabulary. Just a basic memory game.

Mini reward follows the end of each game.

ABA Flashcards (free)

2+

Flash cards are specifically created to stimulate learning and provide tools and strategies for creative, effective language building.

Benefits to both visual and auditory learners. There is classical music with visual reinforcement built in to the app. Great tool for promoting the mastery of new words, building vocabulary and conveying new concepts.

Animal Fun (free)

 Any

Animal learning program. Children learn about animals by seeing and hearing the sounds an animal makes. Help builds vocabulary

 

iPhone and iPad Apps To Help Develop Articulation: Read more

Physical Therapy Posts

10 Signs at School Suggesting a Student May Benefit from Physical Therapy

Children develop and improve their gross motor skills significantly during their early school years, between three and ten years of age. A lot of gross motor development occurs at school while playing at recess or doing activities in gym class. School offers the opportunity to recognize if a child needs extra assistance from a physical therapist in expanding or improving their gross motor skills.

Physical therapist treats child

Here are some tips for teachers that will help determine if a child would benefit from physical therapy:

  1. The child prefers to sit and play instead of run or participate in gross motor activities during recess or gym class.
  2. The child has difficulty jumping, skipping, or galloping when compared to their peers.
  3. The child has an atypical gait pattern (for example, they walk on their toes or they are “knock-kneed”)
  4. The child prefers to w-sit (with their knees bent, feet by their bottom, and bottom on the floor) instead of crossed-legged on the floor.
  5. The child frequently trips, falls, or bumps into objects.
  6. When walking up and down the stairs, the child does not alternate their feet, instead placing both feet on each step.
  7. The child is unable to kick a soccer ball.
  8. The child is unable to catch or throw a playground ball.
  9. The child runs significantly slower than his peers or has difficulty running for more than one minute.
  10. The child complains of pain or tightness in their ankles, knees, hips, or back.

If you see any of these characteristics in children at school, they may benefit from a physical therapy evaluation. Without fully developed gross motor skills, a child is going to have difficulties keeping up with their peers during recess or gym class. It will also affect their ability to participate in gross motor games and sports. Also, it is important to note that many children will exhibit the above behaviors and may or may not require physical therapy (PT) intervention therefore it is important to consult with a PT first.