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spring break

Spring Break: Tips for the “Staycationing” Family

,Spring break is here. You decided to take the week off work and have a “Staycation” with your family. Now what? Use this time to enjoy with your family…but don’t derail a schedule and development the school year brings.

Spring Break Staycation Do’s:Spring Break

  • Do start the day off writing a schedule of “Fun” things to do with your child.
  • Do give each child a chance to pick something they want to add to the schedule so they each feel like they have a say in the day and are excited for their choice!
  • Do play a board game.
  • Do go outside and ride bikes, go for a walk, go to the park, etc.
  • Do bake some cookies that the kids can decorate!
  • Do an arts and crafts project using things around the house.
  • Do have a dance party or play Dance Revolution on your Wii.
  • Do for children ages 3-10, make a book: staple paper together and have your child dictate the story to you (or write it themselves depending on age). Then let them illustrate it!
  • Do make a picnic instead of your typical lunch. Set up a blanket in the yard and enjoy!
  • Do write a social story so kids know what to expect during this off time
  • Do use a visual schedule each day during break
  • Do keep your child on a proper sleep schedule or your tired child will not make vacation fun
  • Do use these days to have quality time with your children!

Spring Break Staycation Don’ts:

  • Don’t plop yourself or your kids in front of the TV all day.
  • Don’t allow any nagging! Only smiles and fun suggestions!
  • Don’t try to work on your day off.
  • Don’t waste the day eating junk food and supplying it to your children.

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!

 

Family History and Kids with Special Needs

If you have a brother, nephew, uncle or some other member in your family with certain special needs, you will want to be cautious and family tree mindful that many neurodevelopmental conditions have a high genetic component. Recent studies have indicated that genetics account for 70 to 80 percent of the risk of having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. A 2004 study indicated that there is considerable evidence that demonstrates that genetics play a major role in the risk of having an anxiety disorder. It is important to realize that the risk factors are high; however, they are not necessarily 100%.  This simply means that just because a parent or relative has a neurodevelopmental disorder, it does not mean that the child will exhibit the condition. What it does indicate is that the child is at a higher risk for the condition.

As a parent, it is important to realize that your child may be at risk for a condition if a relative has that same condition. Do not be alarmed; instead, be aware. Always pay attention to any concerns, seek out advice from your pediatrician, psychologist and/or developmental therapist.

There are numerous possible warning signs for the purpose of this blog;  however, below is what to be on the lookout for:

Anxiety:

• Does the child shy away from peers?
• Does the child have sleep onset  issues?
• Does the child engage in behaviors such as picking, biting nails, pacing, etc.?
• Are there fixed routines that the child engages in?

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ADHD:

• Does the child have difficulty focusing on work?
• Does the child require a lot of redirection and repetition of information?
• Does the child make careless errors with work?
• Does the child always seem to be on-the-go?

Click here for more on ADHD

Autism Spectrum:

• Does the child struggle with initiating and sustaining appropriate eye contact?
• Are there language delays?
• Does the child avoid seeking out others for interaction?
• Does the child avoid engaging in nonverbal behaviors such as gesturing?

The information above should not be considered to be a diagnostic check sheet, but rather possible concerns that might require further assessment. Parents, if you know that there is a family history of a neurodevelopmental condition and you see any of the above signs or symptoms expressed in your child, it is then time to seek further guidance.

3 Reasons Your Child Needs A Meal Schedule

Today, there is the great debate among parents to whether or not put their kids on a schedule. Should I give my child a daily routine or Family eatinggo with the flow of what they want, when they want it? In terms of feeding, schedules are very important for kids that are over 6-12 months old. Prior to 6 months old, feeding really should not be done on a schedule, but rather on demand. Breast or bottle feeding on demand helps infants learn to respond to hunger and satiety cues. In addition, it allows them to eat what they need to grow to their potential. At this age, eating is very instinctual and babies know best how much to eat and when to eat, with the exception of some cases of medical or developmental issues.

During the transition to solids, between 6-12 months of age, I advise parents to introduce a routine of “meals” from the beginning. Feed the infant at the same time as the rest of the family’s mealtime(s) every day. Then, as the child gets older, continue sticking to regularly scheduled family mealtimes and snacks that occur around the same time each day.

Below are three reasons why a meal schedule is crucial for children:

  1. Teaches good mealtime habits. Ask any parent and they will say that they have experienced mealtime struggles at some
    point. One way to eliminate mealtime struggles is to have set expectations from the beginning of introducing solids. Teach your young child that when it’s time to eat, we come to the table, sit in a high chair or booster seat and have a variety of healthy foods to eat. It makes the connection for them from the very beginning that sitting at the table means that it is time to eat.
  2. Prevents “grazing”. Grazing happens when we eat randomly all throughout the day. This can lead to over-eating unhealthy foods for older kids and it may actually lead to under-eating for younger kids. When children eat little amounts here and there, they fill up just enough to decrease their appetite for well-rounded meals.
  3. Promotes healthy digestion. Eating on a schedule means that we are filling up the gut at meals and then giving it time to empty before filling up again. The rhythmic filling and emptying of the gastrointestinal tract is the ideal pattern to stimulate regular bowel movements. Furthermore, a regular pattern of meals helps keep blood sugar balanced throughout the entire day, which helps to improve energy, concentration and moods.

If your family struggles with implementing mealtime schedules or routines, contact one of our registered dietitians to schedule an appointment. A registered dietitian can help you implement ways in which you can get your family back on track and address any nutrition concerns.


My Child Won’t Sit Still During Dinner…Help!

Children with sensory processing difficulties may have a difficult time staying in one place for extended periods of time. family dinnerFrequently, parents will witness this kind of behavior during mealtime, particularly during dinner, after their child has been seated all day in school. This behavior is the child’s way of telling parents that they need to move! The fidgety movement is a cue that the child needs vestibular input to help him achieve an optimal arousal for the task at hand; in this case, eating dinner.

Below are some ideas to assist your child in sitting down for your family meal:

  1. Provide vestibular input prior to sitting them down for dinner. Have your child complete jumping jacks, frog jumps or log rolls to provide them the input to achieve the ideal arousal level for mealtime.
  2. Use a move-n-sit cushion on your child’s chair. This device will provide your child with movement while seated at the table.
  3. Allow your child to stand while eating. Some children may prefer to stand at the dinner table. Provide a visual boundary on the floor of the space they are to stand in while eating dinner.

These tips should assist you and your family to have a successful family meal together!

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Fun Ways to Help Your Children to be More Active

As I stated in my previous blog, as adults (parents, teachers, therapists), we have a huge influence upon the lifestyles that children family yogaaround us are going to live by.  We need to be sure that we are teaching our children well so that they may learn to make their own healthy choices in the future.  A huge part of living a healthy lifestyle is to exercise and remain active.

Here are a few simple movement activities to try with your family at home:

  •  Set-up an obstacle course outside or throughout your home.  Incorporate a variety of skills. Some of these skills will be easy for your child and some of them will be more challenging.  This will help your child to feel a sense of accomplishment and will also help him/her to set new goals for himself/herself.  Skills can include, but are not limited to: dribbling a playground ball, catching a tennis ball with one hand, balancing on one foot with hands on hips, skipping or galloping, grapevines, log rolls, somersaults, push-ups and jumping jacks.
  • Have a family yoga session!  Lay out yoga mats or towels for everyone and take turns leading each other through various yoga poses (e.g. downward dog, plank, boat pose and warrior II pose).  Try to increase your flexibility and longevity each time!  By talking each other through the poses, this will help your child work on his/her body awareness and direction-following skills.
  • During family game night, take movement breaks after every round and/or after every person takes their turn of the board game (e.g. superman pose, silly bug pose, jumping jacks, sit-ups, and lunges).  This will not only help to ‘wake-up’ your bodies, but it will help to build strength and endurance in a carefree way as well!  Similarly, it might take some of the emphasis off of winning and losing as your children become more concerned with who gets to pick the next movement activity!

As you can see, there are several easy ways to incorporate movement and exercise into your family’s daily activities!  Make sure you are demonstrating the importance of exercise and fitness to your children by making it a priority in your own life.  Stay tuned for my next blog regarding teaching your children the importance of goal setting.   Please reach out to your child’s occupational therapist or physical therapist if you require more individualized ideas for gross motor and strengthening activities in your home.

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Using the Game “Guess Who” as a Fun Way to Address Handwriting at Home!

Handwriting practice may cause conflict in your household, especially after a full day of school. There are various techniques to incorporate handwriting into fun activities. One of these strategies is by using the board game, “Guess Who.

guess who game

  1. Set up the game as you normally would to play without handwriting practice.
  2. Prepare paper and pencils for both players.
  3. Instead of verbally asking the questions to identify your opponent’s character, write down the questions and answers.

This creative strategy will be a fun way to have your child work on his/her handwriting skills, and can be fun for the whole family too!

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6 Ways to Support your Child through a Dining-Out Experience

I worked in the restaurant industry for many years as a hostess as well as a waitress. I recently observed a family out at dinner on a Saturday night. After seeing some of the behaviors of their son and hearing some feedback from their waiter, it became obvious to me that this family had a child with special needs.  Shortly after ordering food, the family had to request that their food be boxed up to take home instead of eating at the restaurant. I found this to be very unfortunate, as there were many actions the restaurant could have taken to accommodate this family’s needs.

Mother and daughter restaurant

Eating out at a restaurant is like participating in a dance. Everyone needs to know the right steps to make the dance smooth and make sure no one’s toes are stepped on. What diners don’t understand is that they are very much a part of this dance. Typically, waiters are able to read their tables and determine their needs. As a server, I am able to determine the timing and tempo desired by diners and make sure their food is delivered appropriately. Knowing what accommodations you can ask for is important.

The following tips will better prepare you to make the requests you need. A restaurant staff should be able to accommodate these needs no matter what time of day:

Know the menu

Before going out to a restaurant, look at possible food items you would like to order. You do not need to pre-order your food as cravings change when you get to the restaurant, but becoming familiar with the available foods will help make an order quicker. This can also assist in talking to your children about the restaurant. They could choose what they want to eat and become excited about going! It will also make an unfamiliar environment feel more familiar.

Request a quiet table

Request a table in a quiet area that has some space for movement. Try to avoid tables in the middle of dining areas or ones that are far from the exit or bathroom.

Call ahead and ask about existing reservations

Parties of 15 or more tend to be very loud and take up a lot of the dining space. Avoid going to restaurants during the time of the party. Once my restaurant had a reservation for 70 people! It took up the entire dining space. Also, the time it takes for the kitchen to prepare the food was extended for other diners in the restaurant at that time.  From the time the waiters placed the food order, it took the kitchen one full hour to make it!

Order everything all at once

Order your drinks and food all at the same time. Waiters control the pace of your meal and how soon your food arrives.  Let your waiter know what your dining experience looks like.  Do you want your food all at once?  Do you want your child’s food first?  If you need your meal fast, just inform them and they can make it happen. Restaurants are able to deliver food within 10-12 minutes of ordering, maybe sooner.

Tell your waiter about your child’s needs

Be an advocate for your child. Create a “menu” of your child’s needs before going to the restaurant. For example, you can say, “my name is _____. I like to have my food delivered quickly. When this does not happen, I can become upset. When I am upset, it may look like this­­­_______.”  By doing this, your waiter will understand your child’s needs and can work to have them met. This also helps further prepare your child for going out to eat.

Be prepared

Bring tabletop activities for your child to enjoy while waiting for the food to be delivered. Perhaps ask for a table with extra space so that there is plenty of room on the table for cups, plates, and activities.  Also, talk with your child ahead of time about the restaurant experience. Create a visual schedule to follow and label the dining expectations.  First, we sit down, then the server takes our order,  then we receive our drinks, then we color/read/watch a show for a certain amount of time ( you can ask your server how long the food will take),  then we receive our food,  and finally we eat.

Knowing what accommodations you can ask for is important.  By knowing these tips, you will be better prepared to make the requests you need to make your “dance” smooth.

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Up Up and Move Away with Kids!

Moving is already a stressful process without adding children into the equation.family moving day

Here is a list of life-saving tips that may help to ease both you and your children throughout the transition!

  • Before the move, start preparing the children by showing them books about moving to a new home. Show them pictures of the new city, the schools, the playground, the pool, etc. You should also discuss any feelings that the children may have regarding the move.
  • The day before the move, make sure the children have enough sleep.  Tired children will make the moving experience much more difficult for the entire family.
  • During the day of the move, have a backpack ready for each child that includes music, books, activities and additional batteries to keep them busy throughout the day.  Remember to pack snacks as well as the day will become quite busy. Hungry kids =cranky kids
  • Take a log of pictures of the entire experience, from packing and moving days to the first few weeks og living in the new house.  Make the experience very exciting!
  • Once you arrive at your new home, remember the needs of your children. You are bound to encounter issues that will most likely exhaust you. Consider hiring a babysitter for the first few days of the transition. An extra adult to have around will be able to give your children the attention they need while you are packing and unpacking.
  • Plan to take a day off from everything once you are finished with the move. This will allow the family to reconnect and recharge.

If your child is in therapy, ask your therapists for home program information so that you may continue the therapy on a daily basis.

Enjoy your new home!

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Tips to Get a Child to Try a New Food | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, a registered dietitian provides strategies to help your child to try new foods.

In this video you will learn:

  • When is it recommended to offer a child a new food
  • How many exposures to a new food before we expect a child to eat it
  • How to make a child feel comfortable with trying new foods

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 Stephanie Wells, a Pediatric
Registered Dietician. Stephanie, can you give us three tips on how to get a
child to try a new food?

Stephanie: Sure. The first tip would be that you want to offer the new
foods in a low pressure situation. Offer them foods at the table or on
their high chair, and consistently offer them a new food, maybe once per
week. Don’t pressure them to try the new food, but just offer it to them
and encourage them to try it, and let them sort of come around to it. Just
remember that research shows that it takes a child 8 to 15 exposures to a
new food before they might actually eat it.

The second tip would be to have them help pick out a new food that they
might want to try. And they can do that at the grocery store or the farmers
market. And also get them involved in actually preparing the food.

The third tip would be to be a good role model for your children, in terms
of eating the types of foods that you would like them to eat. It can also
be really effective if they eat in a setting with their peers. So if they
have cousins or a play group where they can eat together, and if they see
other kids eating those types of foods, then they will be more likely to
want to eat it themselves.

Robyn: All right. Well, thank you so much for the tips. And thank you to
our viewers for watching. 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.

5 Roles to Assign a Sibling When There is a New Baby

It’s Friday night and you are at the dinner table with your 3 week old baby boy and 5 year old daughter. After taking a sip of water, your daughter looks at you and says, “Mommy, I need a diaper.” Because your daughter has been potty trained for 2 years now, these are words that you never thought you would hear again from her. Before you scream, take a deep breath and RELAX. She is simply adjusting to the new little one – this is normal. Since the new baby is taking up a lot of your time, your 5 year-old is going to act out (or act younger) to get your attention, especially if you are feeding or spending time with the new baby. The best thing to do is give your 5 year-old special “big sister” or “big brother” roles. The following are five roles you can assign to a sibling when you have a new baby:

5 Roles To Assign a Sibling When There is a New Baby:

  1. Baby Watch – Put your older child on “baby watch”. sister and new babyWhile you are still in the room, ask him or her to make observations about what the baby is doing and let you know. Ask your older child what he/she and the baby have that is the same and what is different.
  2. Night time reader– Let your older child tell the baby a story. Engage him/her in making a picture book with you that includes all the fun things that you have done together, so the new baby can learn about activities you do in your family. After you have finished creating this book, tell your older child that he/she is on “night time reader” duty. Explain the importance of reading this story to the baby and how important it is that the baby gets to learn who everyone is. Stress how great he/she is with learning who everyone is and how you want him/her to teach the baby… BECAUSE HE/SHE IS THE BEST TEACHER!!!
  3. Special jobs helper– When you are giving your baby a bath, ask your older child to help. He/she can get the soap and help wash the baby’s legs. If your baby needs a new diaper, you can ask your older child to go get it. You can ask him/her to help rub your baby’s back to calm her down when she is crying. Remember to praise your older child when he/she is able to soothe the baby!
  4. Advice helper– When you are dressing the baby, ask your older child what he/she thinks the baby wants to wear. If the baby is crying, ask your older child if he/she thinks the baby is tired, hungry, etc. You may already know the answer to this question; however, asking your older child for his/her advice makes him/her feel very important.
  5. Creative helper– Ask your older child to think of a creative nickname for the baby to help establish a special bond between them. Helping create that bond and relationship is one of the toughest tasks. Creating a close bond at an early stage will ensure that the bond will last a lifetime.