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Creating SMART Goals for Kids with Autism

When it comes to creating goals for kids with autism, it can be overwhelming where to start. What goal do you pick? When should they meet their goal? How can everyone work on it together? blog-smart-goals-main-landscapeRest assured, creating effective goals is as simple as making sure it is a SMART goal: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Following these simple guidelines will help your child achieve the goals you set in place.

Specific

It is easy to have a general goal in mind for kids with autism, such as increasing their language or self-help skills. However, general goals are hard to work on since they do not have specific behaviors that you are looking to increase. Being as specific as possible with your goal is the most effective way to ensure your child will meet their goal.

Measurable

When we create a goal, we have to make sure we can measure a child’s success. If our goal isn’t measurable, we cannot accurately determine if the goal was met. The two most common ways to make goals measurable are frequency (e.g. 3 times per day, etc.) and accuracy (e.g. with 80% success, in 4 out of 5 opportunities, etc.).

Attainable

Before we start working on a goal, we have to make sure it is something the child can attain (i.e. a goal they can achieve). We need to look at prerequisite skills (i.e. skills the child needs in order to achieve the current goal). We also need to look at how realistic our goal is. We cannot expect a child to get dressed by themselves each morning if their underwear drawer is too high for them to reach.

Relevant

Relevant goals are goals that will make a difference in the child’s life. If the goal isn’t relevant to the child, the child will not be motivated to achieve it. If a goal is determined to not be relevant to the child or the one helping teach the goal, it will need to be adjusted to become relevant.

Time-bound

If all goals had an eternity to be achieved, there would not be a desire to teach and attain the goal in the near future. Making goals time-bound ensure that the goal is mastered in a realistic time-frame. Determining the time-frame of your goal should be dependent on the goal. The more challenging the goal, the longer the time-frame should be.

Example of a SMART Goal

Your goal is to work on your child asking you for help when you are in another room. At this time, your child does not ask you for help when you are in the same room consistently. Let’s go through each criterion to make our SMART goal.

Specific: Child will say “help me” while handing the object they need help with to the adult

Measurable: 4 out of 5 opportunities

Attainable: We will first work on when an adult is in the same room

Relevant: Your child frequently needs help when playing with new toys or opening and sealing food

Time-bound: 2 weeks

Now that you know how to write SMART goals, start making some and see your child blossom!

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

Meet-With-An-Applied-Behavior-Analyst

ADHD and School Success

ADHD and School Success

Even though it feels like summer has just begun for many in the Chicago area, it is not too early to begin preparing for success in the upcoming school year. We all want our children to be successful in school, especially those children with challenges with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Below are some helpful tips to prepare your child with ADHD for back to school time:

  • Review your child’s IEP or 504 Plan. Take a look at the current plan and consider which goals were met andADHD and School Success which areas still need to be addressed (click here for more on how to have a successful IEP meeting).
  • Organize school systems together. Head out to an office-supply store (with your child) and check out different ways to help your child with organization and time management. Be open-minded to trying different approaches.
  • Stock up on school supplies. Have fun picking out some of the child’s favorite items as well as some of the supplies you anticipate they may need (poster board, pens, protractors, etc.).
  • Consider this year’s after-school activities. Talk to the child about interests and activities for the school year. Build on what your child has done in the past and what activities they want to try.  Be creative and encourage him to not only try activities that enhance proven skills, but also ones he finds challenging.
  • Find a tutor or homework helper. If you foresee some areas of struggle reach out now for people to assist in the fall.
  • Make a calendar. In order to give your child a sense of control and have him more engaged in the process, talk about daily, weekly and monthly schedules.
  • Set goals together. Brainstorm goals for school. Focus on strengths and challenges.  Make goals attainable in order to empower the child.
  • Focus on the positive aspects of heading back to school. Discuss the areas your child is interested or excited about with regards to returning to school.
  • HAVE FUN! Make sure to spend quality time with your child this summer. Talk to them about their feelings about returning to school.  What are they looking forward to most? What fears or anxiety do they have?

Click here to read 8 ways to ease homework time stress.

ADHD Resource Center

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!

money-free rewards

Reward Your Child Without Breaking The Bank

Reward (noun): a token given in recognition of effort, service or accomplishment.

Everyone, no matter their age, recognizes the positive aspects of being rewarded for hard work and perseverance. Asmoney-free rewards adults, we get rewarded at work with words of praise or a monetary bonuses, encouraging us to continue to strive beyond the minimum. Children, just as adults, recognize and understand the idea of a reward. It is something that is earned; it is something we look forward too; it is something that provides a sense of accomplishment.

Parents often navigate the process of rewarding through toys. However, rewarding children with toys and games can become expensive. Here are a few non-monetary rewards for your children that can build self-confidence, strengthen your relationship, and establish life-long skills for goal attainment.

Money-Free Rewards for Kids:

  1. One-on-one time: Children, especially children who have siblings, crave alone time with one or both of their parents. This is time in which the full attention is on them, their laughs and their actions. One-on-one time can be as simple as a drive around town, an ice-cream date, an hour of play time or even just time when your phone is put away and your to-do task is hidden.
  2. The privilege of picking their favorite game during family game night or favorite movie during family movie night.
  3. Reduction of chores for a day: reward behaviors and accomplishments by allowing your child to “earn no chores” for a day. It’s like you earning a vacation day!
  4. Choosing his favorite meal for dinner.
  5. Additional screen time: an extra few minutes of screen time, whether it be an iPad or television, can be earned. When using this reward system make sure that rules are established and understood, just as normal screen time rules are known.

Click here to read more about using rewards to help your child behave.

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!

New Years Resolutions: A Chance for Kids to Make Goals and See Their Achievements

We frequently set goals for ourselves; parents set their sights on goals for their children and therapists identify skill areas to build upon girl setting goals for the children they work with. There is a reason why we make a new years resolution with each year that passes- it is motivating to set your sights on something new. Goal setting can be fun; encourage kids to join in!
Make goals less of an obligation and more of a motivation by encouraging children to speak for themselves. You will be surprised with what they come up with. As children are not usually asked to set goals themselves (and in fact it is quite an abstract question at that), below is a framework for discussing goal-setting with children.

How To Goal Set With Children:

  • Present goal setting as a form of “wish list” for children. These wishes can be as big as they would like them to be, such as what a child wants to be when they grow up, getting a pet that they have been desperately asking for or earning more of an allowance each week. This makes a goal tangible and relevant to every child.
  • Get more specific by organizing these wishes into certain areas of life. Examples are listed below:
    • Personal- practice piano 30 minutes per day.
    • Social- limit phone calls to 30 minutes on school nights.
    • Family- plan a family activity at least every two weeks.
    • Academic- clean out my backpack before bed every night.
    • Physical – learn to pass the ball to teammates during soccer practice.
  • Set short-term goals that are to be attained before reaching larger, more long-term goals. Short-term goals should be a part of an action plan (a specific description of what a child must do to get to the ultimate goal).
    • For example, before a pet joins the family, a child must show responsibility by independently making their bed and sorting their laundry.
    • Make these goals measurable so that a child knows “when” and “how” this goal is achieved.
    • Mark progress! If a child remembered to do laundry 3 days out of the 5 days, this is a HUGE improvement from before the child started doing laundry- celebrate it.
      • Think of how exciting that trip to the scale was when you’ve lost your first few pounds- it keeps you going. Help your child keep going by celebrating baby steps.
      • Charts, stickers, announcements via white-board or at the dinner table serve to encourage children and keep them on track.

Including a child in setting their own goals can lead to greater outcomes through increased motivation and personal investment in each goal. It empowers kids and changes the conversation from “you have to do” to “what do you want to do? How can you make it happen?” Keep in mind that goals can be individual or family-wide. Take advantage of this New Year to start healthy and fun habits at home by setting goals that require the whole family to work together.

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How Does Play Help Meet a Child’s Therapy Goals?

Occupational therapists often use play as a means of helping achieve our clients’ goals. Many times, it may not look like our sessions are working on your child’s areas of need; however, when we are working with children, we often try to adapt play activities in order to help your child meet his goals. Play is a very motivating activity for a child to engage in with the therapist and work on some of his goals. Play may also mask the fact that children are working on a difficult skill by introducing fun into the activity. For example, if one of the child’s goals is to improve his handwriting skills, you could play a game that involves writing, such as Boggle, Scattergories, or crossword puzzles.

Therapist and child at Gym

Here are some play activities that OT’s use to help your child meet his goals:

  1. If your child needs to work on balance and coordination, we may play basketball while standing on top of a bosu ball (imagine standing on the rounded part of a ball cut in half).
  2. A child who needs to work on core and upper extremity strength could meet these goals by playing a game while lying on his stomach over a therapy ball, while balancing with his arms on the ground.
  3. In order to improve self-regulation for a child who has sensory concerns, we may start our session by playing on the gym equipment in order to help regulate his nervous system.
  4. To work on bilateral coordination and fine motor skills with a child who does not like drawing, we often use play-doh and have him trace shapes and cut them out with scissors.
  5. Another way to work on gross motor coordination is to practice climbing a rock wall, climbing a ladder, or swinging on the monkey bars.

Sometimes, however, it may be difficult to adapt the activity and make it fun for the child. In this case, the therapist may have the child participate in an activity to work on the skills he needs to improve, but use a play activity as a reward.  From the first example in which the child’s goal is to improve handwriting, the child may still not want to play the games that involve handwriting. Then, the therapist may tell the child that after handwriting, he can do an activity of his choice.

Hopefully, this blog provides a bit more insight into the therapist’s mindset while working with your child. The therapist is constantly thinking and problem solving about how to make an activity therapeutic and how to make it easier or harder based on the child’s ability to succeed at the tasks. If the therapist is successful, the child will not even realize the activities are working on their areas of need and will want to come to therapy every session!

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Encouraging Language Skills during Family Board Games

One of the most impactful ways a child can make progress toward their speech and language goals is through home practice.  I compare it to working outFamily playing a boardgame at the gym; one day a week counts for something, but you’re unlikely to see noticeable results.  Instead, three or four days a week is the best way to build muscle and endurance and notice tangible changes.  Speech and language development functions in a very similar way. To help children maintain and make further gains between speech sessions, we assign home practice activities.  To kids, this often translates to “more homework!”  So how can we encourage children to practice throughout the week?  Try choosing fun and engaging activities that mask the speech and language goals

Here are some board games recommended for school age and adolescent students:

7 favorite games that encourage language skills:

Outburst Junior. This fast-paced game encourages the use of categories and vocabulary.  Players are given a word or category, and asked to name as many category members as possible before the time runs out.

Scattergories Junior. This fun game also encourages the use of categories.  Players are given a specific letter (e.g., “F” or “G”) as well as a list of categories.  Each player must think of various category members that begin with that letter.

Guess Who. This silly game encourages players to ask questions and group pictures together based on similarities and differences.  Players have a board filled with faces (or in the new version, animals, appliances and even monsters) and have to guess which face belongs to their opponent.

Headbanz. This engaging game encourages children to verbally describe objects, ask questions, and remember clues.  Players are each given a secret word to wear on their headband.  Players can look at other players’ headbands, but cannot see their own.  Each player must ask questions about their word, and give others clues for theirs (e.g., “Is my word an animal?’).

Catch Phrase Junior. This high-energy game encourages the use of vocabulary, verbal descriptions, categorization, synonyms, and word definitions.  Players are given a word and must try to get team members to guess what it is without actually stating the word.

Cranium Junior. This entertaining game also encourages the use of vocabulary and word meanings while tapping into the various senses.  Players are given a question card and must act, hum, draw, or sculpt the answer to help their teammates guess what it is.

Apples To Apples Junior. This interactive game encourages the use of vocabulary, word meanings, synonyms, and categorization.  Players are given a stack of cards, each with a different word (a person, place or thing).  A descriptive word is then placed in the center of the game and players must choose a card from their stack that best fits the description.

5 modifications for kids with language difficulties:

Each of these games relies heavily on language skills. Therefore, a child with language difficulties might find these games challenging.  To help, here are a few ways to modify each game so that your child feels more successful.  I advise using the modifications for all players, instead of singling one child out.

  • Extend the time allowed for each turn. Instead of using a sand-timer, use your own timer on a smartphone or stopwatch to allow each player more time to complete tasks.
  • Eliminate timing altogether.  If you notice your child crumbling under the time pressure, just eliminate timers altogether.  After your child has had practice with the game and feels more confident, you can slowly reintroduce the timer.
  • Adjust the vocabulary words. If your child seems unfamiliar or overwhelmed by the vocabulary in the game (e.g., Apples to Apples), create your own playing cards with more suitable vocabulary for your child.
  • Encourage note-taking. Games such as Guess Who and Headbanz rely on memory.  If your child seems to have difficulty remembering clues, encourage him/her to write things down during the game (e.g., my headband is an animal, it lives in the zoo, it has stripes, etc).
  • Provide lots of encouragement. Discourage any negative comments from players, while encouraging positive comments instead (e.g., “good try” or “nice job!”).  Give your child positive and descriptive praise for anything they are doing well (e.g., “Wow, you are showing great sportsmanship” or “That was an excellent question to ask.”)

Above all, have fun!  Games provide an excellent avenue for learning, but more importantly, they provide a fun and engaging way to spend time together.  By incorporating your child’s speech and language goals into games, your child will learn and practice without ever hearing those dreaded words, “more homework.”  Ask your child’s speech-language pathologist for more fun activities to address their speech and language goals at home.

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Keeping Up Behavior Goals at Home and at School

You have already taken the first positive step to developing a set of behavior goals for your child; however, as it is true with many of life’s most boy yellingimportant projects, follow-up is equally important as the initial step.

This blog offers suggestions relating to meeting those behavior goals you have set for your child by using three basic techniques:

  • Making Tracking Behavior Fun
  • Using Public Posting as a Motivator
  • Involving your child in the process of tracking behavior.

Making Tracking Behavior

The task of tracking behavior is much more effective (and pleasant) when you and your child cooperate as a team.  For instance, allowing your child to participate in making or decorating their behavior goal chart may make the process more fun.  Sit down with your child with a poster board and crafts materials to come up with the chart as a team!

Using Public Posting as a Motivator

It is important to understand that public posting should be used to motivate, rather than punish your child.  For that reason, using a reward-based system, such as giving gold star stickers, is a great way to get results. It also allows your child to see their progress he has made.

Involving Your Child in the Process of Tracking Behavior

Children respond best to behavior goal programs when they are involved in the data tracking.  Whichever system you are using, be sure to involve your child in the data tracking element.  For example, if you are using a chart in which behaviors are tracked with a tally system, allow your child to make the tally marks and be sure that they understand what the marks signify.  By doing this, they will be more involved in the process of tracking behavior and they will better understand the goals they are trying to achieve!

Get Teachers involved in Tracking Behavior

Consistency is crucial when it comes to reaching behavioral goals.  This implies that the behaviors need to be tracked and addressed at school as well as at home.  Teachers are a great resource that can help your child reach behavioral goals. Open a dialogue with them and do not be afraid to discuss any behavioral issues that you are trying to address.  Goal-based programs are much more successful when all of the child’s caretakers are on the same page!

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Start The School Year Out Right

A Guide To Meeting With Your Child’s New Education Team

Summer vacation is almost over and the first day of school for many children is on the horizon. The majority of children (and teachers) experience difficulty transitioning from the A Parent and Teacher Meetcarefree days of summer to the rigid structure of school. Children with special needs and learning disabilities are even more likely to exhibit difficulty with the school year. As a parent, it is your duty to advocate for your child in order to ensure that the academic year starts smoothly and that the child’s needs are being met.

I recommend that the parents establish a meeting with the child’s teacher and any ancillary staff that has an impact on his or her academic success (special education teachers, social worker, speech/language therapist, occupational therapist). In addition, it is always recommended that you have your child’s outside therapy team be part of this meeting in order to share information and develop effective strategies. Five specific goals of this initial meeting are listed below:

5 New Teacher Meeting Goals

1. It is important that all individuals working with the child be made aware of the child’s issues as well as what has worked/not worked in the past. It is vital that last year’s teacher have an opportunity to share information with parents about the challenges from the previous year as well as what solutions she has found helpful in the classroom.

2. Any outside therapist needs to be present at the meeting to share how things have been going over the summer. What has the child been working on as part of therapy, what goals were achieved, and what goals were not met. This will help establish expectations for the child.

3. Creation of specific, attainable, and measurable goals is important. If a child is getting out of his seat every five minutes it would not be realistic for his new teacher to expect him to sit for hours on end. We might set up an initial goal so that the child is expected to remain seated for ten minutes. Once that is achieved with regularity we move the goal up to fifteen minutes, and so on.

4. Establish a frequent communication system between parents and teachers. The goal of this is to not bombard teachers with constant emails/phone calls but to be able to have constant communication between all parties so that parents can help organize the daily assignments and ensure that all work is completed.

5. Identify that everyone is on the same team. The goal of this meeting is not to burden the academic staff with more work but to help develop solutions to ensure that the child’s needs are met.

Goals Are Not Just For New Year’s Resolutions, They Are For Kids Too!

Graduating girlWe create New Year’s resolutions because we want to make a big change in ourselves—but how do we get there? It’s all about breaking down that resolution into smaller steps! Your child can do this, too, and you might want to consider starting off the New Year with this conversation…

What are the benefits of creating goals for pre-teens and teenagers?

• Your children have been learning their health habits and establishing their lifestyle all based upon their life with you. As long as they still live under your roof, you have opportunities to set them up with good living habits.

• What you teach them now about making plans and following through will be beneficial to the development of responsibility for the rest of their life.

• When your child takes the steps necessary to achieve her goals, she is acquiring skills that lead to greater independence.

• The satisfaction that comes from being able to achieve a goal is a tremendous boost to self-esteem and happiness.

Tips for setting & achieving goals:

• Let them decide what they would like to achieve, and help them gather the tools to get there.

• All big goals should be broken down into small objectives. Make the small objectives achievable so that your child can jumpstart his/her plan successfully. Read more